iGuilty: Sacramento man admits to scheming Apple stores

Futuristic retail outlets fell for old-school scam

A 33-year-old Sacramento man who collected thousands of dollars worth of ill-gotten Apple swag pleaded guilty December 19 to defrauding a corporate behemoth worth $900 billion.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California says Marcus Israel Butler pulled the same scam at Steve Jobsian product hubs from the Midwest to Alaska: He’d attempt to buy high-value products with a revoked debit card. When the transaction was inevitably declined, Butler would tell sales associates that there was a glitch with his card and that they could clear it up with a call to his bank. Apple employees would often dial the number, only to end up talking to one of Butler’s co-conspirators posing as a bank teller, according to federal prosecutor Todd Pickles.

The Secret Service conducted the investigation into Butler’s string of crimes. Butler was finally arrested in Colorado after racking up $353,000 in losses for Apple and other businesses.

In February, a report by the banking research firm Javelin Strategy & Research noted that all categories of consumer-related fraud were significantly up in 2016. Schemes involving debit cards jumped the highest, the report read, with a 40 percent increase from the previous year.

Appearing before federal Judge John A. Mendez, Butler pleaded guilty to a felony count of fraud. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in March. Prosecutors said he could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.