US judge sentences men for $1.5 million Apple Gift Card scam

Apple is also owed over $1 million in damages.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

A US judge has sentenced two men for operating an Apple Gift Card scam that netted them over $1.5 million.

On Monday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said Syed Ali and Jason Tout-Puissant, 29- and 27-years-old, respectively, were sentenced after admitting to the scam in 2019.

Both pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Ali was sentenced in October 2021 by Texas US District Judge David Godbey, and Tout-Puissant has now joined his co-conspirator, having been sentenced by the same judge this week.

Often, gift card scams are associated with fake romance scams and cold calls, in which criminals pretend to be an antivirus provider or a tax organization. These scam artists demand payment made in gift cards purchased from Apple, Google, or other vendors.

In this case, however, Tout-Puissant physically stole numerous point-of-sale (PoS) devices from an Apple store in Texas. He then sat outside, logged into the store's Wi-Fi network, and stole store credits before loading them onto virtual gift cards.

The gift cards were loaded onto Apple Passbook, now known as Apple Wallet. The software can be used to store and share gift cards, boarding passes, tickets, and vouchers.

Once Tout-Puissant loaded the gift cards, he then generated a QR code for the card's value and sent screenshots of the QR codes to Ali. Together with an unnamed co-conspirator, Ali then used the QR codes to buy Apple products from stores in New York.

US prosecutors estimate that the pair fraudulently obtained gift cards valued at over $1.5 million.

Ali was sentenced to 37 months (3 years), and Tout-Puissant will serve 60 months (5 years) behind bars. Tout-Puissant has also been ordered to pay the iPad and iPhone maker $1.26 million in damages.

"If these defendants thought their million-dollar fraud would go unnoticed simply because they targeted a trillion-dollar company, they were sorely mistaken," commented US Attorney Chad Meacham. "The Justice Department will not tolerate fraud against any company, be it a multinational corporation or a mom-and-pop operation. We are grateful to our FBI partners for their work on this case."

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