DA: Ring targeted Comcast in $2.4M fraud

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - August 8, 2012

Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman says 28-year-old Alston Buchanan is a criminal mastermind, claiming the former Comcast worker organized a large group in a scheme to rip off the cable giant, and allowed the group to pocket big money.

Five men are in custody and authorities are seeking 18 more allegedly involved in the scheme to provide discounted rates and premium channels in return for one-time payments.

"When you are looking at dollars that were generated by these $150 fees from 5,700 customers, you are talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Ferman.

It is alleged that Buchanan's group just walked up to many of those 5,700 Comcast customers and offered them special discounts for a one-time cash payment - money that the group kept.

Once someone paid, the Buchanan group supposedly used a computer hidden in a cable vendors closet to hack into billing computers and illegally entered various discount codes.

Several members of the group targeted by authorities turned themselves in Tuesday including Buchanan.

He admitted no guilt, but seemed fascinated at the suggestion that he was a modern day Robin Hood.

"I guess you could say that it is like a modern day Robin Hood type thing, but like I said, it is goes higher than me. I am just the person in the middle just like everybody else," Alston Buchanan said.

The 28-year-old downplayed the alleged crime, saying no one was shot or killed.

"This is just television," said Buchanan. "Granted, in the eyes of the law, it is illegal. But at the same time, Comcast always got paid. They just got paid at a reduced rate."

It is estimated that "reduced rate" cost Comcast $2.4 million last year; a significant sum, but small when compared to the company's total revenues of more than $55 billion.

Officials say Comcast learned of the scheme when one of its employees was approached with an offer.

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