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.“We discovered some unusual promotional adjustments that raised concerns, so we began an internal investigation," Comcast said in response to a request for comment. "We have been working closely with the Montgomery County DA’s office for several months and want to thank them for their professional and thorough investigation. We will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward.”