- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - Twenty people have been charged by federal prosecutors in South Florida with fraud scheme involving cell phones.

An indictment returned Friday charges that the group obtained information on legitimate cell service subscribers. They then used that information to add additional users to the legitimate accounts, entitling them to buy additional phones at a discount.

The retail price for the phones ranged from $550 to $649. Prosecutors say the scheme allowed the group to purchase phones for about $200. The ringleaders employed runners to purchase the discounted phones and paid them $100 for each phone purchased.

Investigators say 860 Verizon customer accounts were fraudulently accessed and more than 1,200 phones purchased in the scam. Verizon’s loss was estimated at $545,500.

Charges include wire fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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