By Brad Segall, Walt Hunter
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — Authorities in Montgomery County, Pa. have broken up what they say was an elaborate organization that stole more than $2.4 million from Philadelphia-based Comcast Corporation by manipulating cable television bills.
Prosecutors say the mastermind of the scheme was Alston Buchanan, a former Comcast employee whom they say was intimately familiar with the company’s billing system.
Prosecutors say the case was cracked in a hair salon when a suspect approached a Comcast employee, getting her hair done, offering to have her bill lowered if she gave them $100-$200.
The employee did not believe that the offer sounded correct and went to the police.
According to investigators, Buchanan recruited agents on the street to approach people, offering to lower their Comcast cable bills in exchange for an upfront cash payment of $150.
Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman says nearly 5,800 accounts were compromised over the course of a year.
“Certainly there is a good reason to think that some of the customers knew it was illegal, (although) I think that some of them probably just thought, ‘This is a ‘friends and family’ discount — I’m getting to take advantage of it.’”
Some of the customers saw their monthly bills cut in half.
“I guess you can say it’s a modern day, like, kind of Robin Hood type thing,” Buchanan told reporters.
Buchanan insisted he did nothing wrong and/or illegal.
“Wouldn’t you be grateful if you were like paying $178 a month and next thing you’re paying $70? Like ‘o this is great,’” Buchanan said.
Ferman says Buchanan was working with someone on the inside at a Comcast subcontractor who hid a computer in a closet — a computer that was secretly tied into Comcast’s system.
Arrest warrants have been issued for more than two dozen people.