Amazon Textbook Rentals Cheated for $ 1.5 Million • The Register
A 36-year-old man from Portage, Michigan, was arrested Thursday for allegedly renting and selling thousands of textbooks on Amazon instead of returning them.
Andrew Birge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said Geoffrey Mark Hays Talsma has been charged with postal and wire fraud, transporting stolen property across state lines, serious identity theft and lying to the FBI.
Three alleged co-conspirators were also charged: Gregory Mark Gleesing, 43, and Lovedeep Singh Dhanoa, 25, both from Portage, Michigan, and Paul Steven Larson, 32, from Kalamazoo, Michigan
From January 2016 to March 2021, according to the indictment, Talsma borrowed textbooks from the Amazon rental program in order to sell them for profit. The indictment describes what happened as “an elaborate system of fraud”.
Talsma allegedly hid its identity by creating multiple customer accounts with different names, postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers. He allegedly did this to circumvent the 15 book limit that Amazon set for textbook rentals.
His alleged fraud plan included using Amazon gift cards to borrow the textbooks and prepaid MyVanilla Visa cards with minimal credit to cover the purchase price of unreturned books.
“These gift cards and MyVanilla Visa cards did not contain names or any other means of identifying him as the person borrowing the textbooks,” the indictment said. “Geoffrey Mark Talsma made sure that the MyVanilla Visa cards had insufficient balance or no balance at all when the textbook loans were overdue so that Amazon could not collect the book purchase price from these cards.”
As the plan progressed, the indictment states, Talsma “recruited individuals, including Defendants Gregory Mark Gleesing, Lovedeep Singh Dhanoa, and Paul Steven Larson, and others known to the grand jury, to allow him to use their names and postal addresses for other purposes continue to receive textbooks to borrow in quantities well above the fifteen book limit. “
Talsma called Amazon customer service, claiming that instead of the textbooks that they ordered, they received other items that could not be returned in the mail, such as flammable items. Or he claimed he never got any textbooks in the hopes that Amazon would credit him with goods not received and forget about the rent. And later he is said to have taught Gleesing, Dhanoa, and Larson to do the same.
Titles included “Compensation” by Jerry Newman, Barry Gerhart and George Milkovich for a buyout price of $ 172.05 and “Economics” by Campbell McConnell, Stanley Brue and Sean Flynn for a buyout price of $ 108.00.
The plan appears to have been quite successful: the indictment states that the four suspected fraudsters stole 14,000 textbooks valued at over $ 1.5 million.
If convicted, Talsma faces a substantial prison sentence: up to 20 years for any charges of postal and wire fraud; up to 10 years for the transport of stolen property; and up to five years for FBI lying. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, this would result in a maximum sentence of four consecutive years, with the other sentences usually being concurrent. ®