Teen charged in Internet fraud case
By Connie Paige
Date: January 27, 2004
Police say a 19-year-old, working out of a tiny cottage overlooking Lake Quinsigamond, used the Internet to bilk customers all over the country and Canada out of $30,000 to $40,000.
The accused, Michael R. Deppe, says all the transactions were legitimate, part of a brisk business he has conducted online since he was 13 years old.
Deppe was indicted on 15 counts of larceny, including failing to deliver promised goods such as a Rolex watch, a plasma television, a digital video recorder, sports memorabilia, and six tickets to a Celine Dion concert with airfare and lodging at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Deppe was also charged with one count of identity fraud.
A spokeswoman for Worcester District Attorney John Conte said Wednesday that no date has been set for Deppe's arraignment. Elizabeth Stammo also said Conte had no comment on the indictments, issued on Jan. 13.
Deppe said he had not yet seen the indictments but denied all the charges.
"I'm absolutely innocent," Deppe said. "I have not defrauded people."
Deppe, who lives alone on Shirley Lane, maintained in two interviews last week that he has always run an honest business -- and said he has made good money at it. To prove his point, he rolled up his sleeve to show off a Rolex watch and gestured toward the front of the house, saying the sport utility vehicle outside was worth $30,000.Deppe said he started by selling Ty Beanie Babies, the once wildly popular stuffed animals traded by and for children and adults. He later branched out to sports memorabilia, cellphones, televisions, and watches, he said.
In some transactions, he said, he contacts potential customers after finding their e-mail addresses on eBay. He then offers what they want to buy in a side deal not involving the auction site, he said.
Deppe said he also uses magazines devoted to collectibles to find names and e-mail addresses.
The lead investigator in the case, Shrewsbury Detective Lieutenant James Hurley, said Deppe is accused of defrauding customers in California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Toronto.
One case cited in the indictments involves a Toronto lawyer who said he paid for but never received a Rolex watch or his money back.
Jeremy Diamond, in telephone interviews last week, said he paid $11,200 to Deppe in two installments. At one point, the two were supposed to meet in New York City to settle up. Deppe maintains that he arrived at the appointed spot, a Hilton Hotel on the Avenue of the Americas, and gave Diamond not one but two watches. But Diamond says Deppe never showed up.
"I'm really angry about this situation," Diamond said. "It's on my mind all the time."
Diamond said he was disappointed not to receive the watch, a stainless-steel limited edition with a white face, called a Daytona, that he has been trying to purchase for three years.
But what disturbed him more, he said, was Deppe's behavior.
"I was in total shock," Diamond said. "He's a very good con artist, very good, especially with all these contracts."
Hani Durzy, a spokesman for eBay, said the company cautions consumers never to do side deals and never to wire money to sellers. Durzy said the company posts customer and seller ratings and offers a $500 buyer-protection program for those who purchase through the PayPal system.
In a move unrelated to the Deppe case, eBay starting Jan. 31 will no longer allow potential buyers to use their e-mail addresses for identification, eliminating one opening for con artists. But Durzy stressed that too much security would make it too difficult for honest buyers and sellers to communicate.
Hurley said some of the victims in the Deppe case complained to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, a joint project of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. The center is a federally funded nonprofit member corporation, which receives and refers complaints about cyber crime. The center referred the cases to the Shrewsbury Police Department.
Other victims, Hurley said, called Shrewsbury police directly.
Hurley said local police, with the help of the State Police Computer Forensic Unit, tracked Deppe's Internet address back to him.
Meanwhile, Deppe's trial can't start too soon for Diamond. Asked whether he would testify, the Canadian replied, "I'll be on the first plane out there."
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