Ex-mobile phone industry executive gets five years for text message scam

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former mobile phone industry executive was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday after he was found guilty of defrauding cellphone customers by charging them millions of dollars for unwanted text messages.

Fraser Thompson, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan, prosecutors announced. A lawyer for Thompson, a former senior vice president at text message marketing company Mobile Messenger, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thompson was convicted of conspiracy, wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering in September, according to court filings.

Prosecutors said Thompson engaged in a scheme to sign up hundreds of thousands of cellphone customers for paid text messaging services without their consent. The customers were subsequently forced to pay more than $100 million for unsolicited text messages that included trivia, horoscopes and celebrity gossip, according to the prosecutors.

They said the scheme was headed by Darcy Wedd, Mobile Messenger’s former chief executive, who was found guilty by a jury in December but has not yet been sentenced. [L1N1OF2AH]

“They ripped off everyday cellphone users, $10 a month, netting over $100 million in illegal profits, of which Thompson personally received over $1.5 million,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

In addition to his prison term, Thompson was ordered to forfeit $1.5 million in fraud proceeds.

Seven other people charged in the scheme have pleaded guilty, according to prosecutors. One of them, Mobile Messenger employee Francis Assifuah, was sentenced to 33 months in prison in September.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by Tom Brown