The alleged ringleader of a criminal enterprise has been arrested – along with his underlings – in Pennsylvania after Comcast Corp. learned that customers were getting discounted services that the cable giant didn't authorize, local prosecutors said Tuesday.
Philadelphia resident Alston Buchanan, a former Comcast employee, is accused of spearheading the sophisticated scheme through which customers paid him and his associates a one-time fee ranging from $100 to $200.
Risa Vetri Ferman, Montgomery County District Attorney, said an investigation revealed that nearly 5,800 accounts were impacted over the course of a year, resulting in a loss to Comcast Cable of $2.4 million.
Buchanan, 28, and his associates used Comcast technician IDs to apply promotional discounts onto customer accounts without Comcast's knowledge, the DA said. He and five other individuals were arrested on a bevy of charges that include criminal conspiracy, theft of services and computer theft among other charges.
The alleged scheme was a sophisticated one that included the use of a secret computer tower, which provided unauthorized access into Comcast's billing accounts.
Buchanan was familiar with Comcast's billing system because he had worked as a dispatcher for both Comcast and a Comcast subcontractor, Advanced Communications Inc. (ACI), Ferman said, adding that Buchanan had an inside connection to an ACI worker who was involved in the criminal enterprise: 26-year-old Kendall Singleton.
The IDs were allegedly procured through a variety of sources, including a fired employee, a worker on disability and a Comcast subcontractor who Buchanan paid $5,000.
Through search warrants, authorities recovered $103,000.00 in cash, computers, cell phones and handwritten ledgers that contained records of the crimes, including the agents involved, Ferman said.
The alleged scheme involved a vast number of people. In addition to the six arrests, arrest warrants also have been issued for 17 other individuals, most of whom live in Philadelphia.