There's been a rash of South-on-East-Coast fraud lately, in which residents from small Texas towns have effectively duped fancy New York firms. Remember April's scamster of the month Andy Surface, the Alvin man who e-mailed Condé Nast a fake invoice for $8 million -- and they paid?
This week, Waco's own Lucas Henderson, a 22-year-old sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology, joined the ranks of Texas scammers. Henderson allegedly created fake coupons available for download, including coupons for energy drinks, cigarettes, beer, makeup, X-Box consoles and PlayStations. The Information Security and Forensics major allegedly foolproofed his coupons, marking them all "Powered by SmartSource," which is a coupon Web site owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
According to a U.S. District Court complaint uploaded by The Smoking Gun, Henderson's been creating these coupons since July of last year. He and others disseminated the coupons through 4chan and Zoklet, both message board Web sites.
In just one instance, during three weeks in December, $200,000 worth of counterfeit coupons for Tide laundry detergent were redeemed.
Henderson is also the author of "How To Make Coupons," a 45-page tutorial on creating your own custom-made, scannable coupons. Here's an excerpt from a chapter, "The 6 Commandments of Coupon Making":
Commandment number three: Share thy coupons, both online, and in real life. It would be insanely stupid not to. If you're using these, you don't want to be the only one doing so. If you are the only one using them, the ability of someone to track the origin of a coupon increases significantly.
Henderson apparently didn't realize this was (obviously) illegal. According to the complaint, his username "Anonymous234" was banned from the Zoklet. He was baffled.
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"Weird," he posted on the site. "I got banned for some reason. AFAIK [as far as I know] I wasn't breaking any rules. Then again, I never read the rules either."
Henderson was always careful to post from an anonymous IP address. But late one night, he slipped up and posted at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The FBI tracked him through that IP address.
During the investigation, Henderson confessed to being Anonymous234 and writing the manual. "I thought it was an interesting thing. Some of it's putting on an air, not necessarily my point of view," he said.
The student now faces a federal felony charge for wire fraud, one for trafficking in counterfeit goods, and a record that might not look great sitting next to his "Information Security" degree.