A Florida man is facing 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection to a $150 million payment processing scheme that included facilitating payments for debt collectors.
Thomas Wells, 74, was one of four individuals who were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in August. The four allegedly facilitated debit and credit card transactions for high-risk businesses, including online gambling, debt collection, debt reduction, prescription drugs, and payday lending. Wells, through his company, Priority Payout, introduced the merchants to the other executives, who ran a payment processing company called Allied Wallet.
Wells admitted to earning more than $700,000 from the scheme, in which merchant clients in high-risk industries were fraudulently made to look like low-risk retail clients through the creation of shell companies and fake websites. The defendants also used industry-standard codes that miscategorized the true nature of the transactions being made. The merchants had already been terminated from card processing networks run by Visa and Mastercard for fraud, chargeback, or other compliance concerns.
Wells faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, restitution, and forfeiture, according to a release announcing the guilty plea. By pleading guilty, Wells admitted that he conspired with the other defendants to defraud several financial institutions and credit card companies.
The scheme helped more than 100 merchants process $150 million in debit and credit card transactions.
A date for Wells’ sentencing was not announced.