The federal government has caught up with an old nemesis — a Florida man who still owes a $34.5 million judgment from 2006 for his role in a scam that bilked telephone customers with bogus charges.
This week, federal prosecutors indicted that same man, alleging that he became a millionaire behind bars by running another cramming scheme from jail that brought in $34 million. In the indictment that was unsealed Feb. 17, prosecutors allege that Willoughby Farr, 46, of West Palm Beach, Fla., used three companies to arrange for local telephone service providers to charge consumers for calls they did not make.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Farr ran the scam from a pay phone at the Palm Beach County jail, where he was serving time on unrelated charges.
In the cramming scam, the illegitimate phone charges typically appeared on the last page of customers’ telephone bills, and many paid the charges unknowingly. Farr hid his ownership of the three firms he used to carry out the scheme, the Justice Department alleged, noting that other companies had cut off his ability to bill for calls after consumers complained and after state regulators sued him for illegitimate billing.
Farr faces six counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine and restitution.
“This type of scheme steals from hundreds of thousands of consumers who inadvertently pay toll charges that appear on their phone bills without authorization,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to prosecute financial crimes of this nature, but this case stresses the need for consumers to carefully review their telephone bills.”
In February 2006, the Federal Trade Commission brought a cramming lawsuit against Farr and other individuals and companies. That lawsuit resulted in the $34.5 million judgment against Farr, who over the course of his career has been in and out of jail on numerous charges, including fleeing police, perjury and traffic offenses.
While he was in jail this latest time, federal regulators seized Farr’s possessions and sold them off. Fort Lauderdale attorney David Chase, who was appointed as a receiver to liquidate Farr’s assets, declined comment on the latest indictment.
Tresa Baldas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.