Michigan man pleads guilty to scam that cost Apple $1 million

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iPhone XS box gold
Jeff Li and friends cashed in more than $1.1 million from the scam.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

A Michigan man this week pleaded guilty to running an “empty-box” fraud scheme that cost Apple more than $1 million.

Van-Seyla Mork filed complaints on behalf of Apple customers, alleging that purchased products had not been received. After obtaining refunds, he transferred the money through various bank accounts in an effort to conceal the fraudulent proceeds.

When you order anything online, there’s always a slight chance that your product won’t turn up. Or that you’ll receive something entirely different. But if you receive exactly what you ordered and claim that it never arrived, that’s fraud.

Mork did this countless times on behalf of many Apple customers — and he’s about the pay the price.

Apple coughed up more than $1 million in refunds

Mork made a series of complaints to Apple’s customer service department, claiming that online orders never arrived. He insisted that only empty boxes were received and demanded a full refund for the products ordered.

The scheme forced Apple to issue $1 million in refunds, according to the United States Department of Justice. It also lost out on the many products that were, in fact, shipped out correctly.

Mork, 25, admitted in federal court in San Jose on Monday that he knew the products were received by customers when he filed the claims, and that his assertions on their behalf were false.

He also admitted that he transferred the proceeds of the scam through various bank accounts “with the intent of concealing the nature and location” of the proceeds.

Mork will be sentenced in October

Mork was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and four counts of money laundering.

Under his plea agreement, Mork pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He could be facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.

Mork is scheduled to be sentenced on October 21, 2019. Apple has not commented on the case and is unlikely to do so.