Man pleads guilty in ‘secret shopper’ scheme

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A Crystal Lake man pleaded guilty today in a “secret shopper” mail fraud scam that netted him at least $10,000, federal authorities announced.

Michael S. Mackay, 47, pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme in which victims would be mailed phony money orders and told to provide feedback on local businesses as “secret shoppers,” authorities said. Victims would be told they could keep part of the funds provided in the money order as compensation for their feedback and were directed to wire the remaining funds to other recipients.

Victims, who were lured by work-at-home ads on the internet, would wire the funds before learning that the money orders they received were fakes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Rockford.

Mackay received the fake money orders in the mail in amounts ranging from $500 to $2,000 from other scheme participants in places as far away Nigeria and Ghana, authorities said. The phony mail orders, totaling at least $2.5 million, were then mailed out to victims around the United States, starting in September 2011 and continuing through at least May 2012, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Mackay is due to be sentenced on Sept. 19 and could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, officials said. He could also receive probation and restitution.

Chicago Tribune reporting

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