ATLANTA — An Ellenwood couple has been indicted in federal court for allegedly operating a “work from home” scam that bilked workers who could sorely afford to lose the money, said authorities Tuesday.
Detrick Mattox, 32, and Jasmine Hudson, 29, were indicted for conspiracy and 12 separate mail fraud counts, said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. They are expected to be arraigned next week.
According to Clayton County court records, Mattox was convicted in April in Superior Court on a driving under the influence charge. Seven other counts, including obstruction of an officer and possession and discharge of firearms, were dropped.
Yates said the couple targeted people suffering hard economic times.
“During these hard times, these defendants are alleged to have targeted individuals who were desperate to earn a living,” she said. “The defendants’ work-from-home scheme fleeced those who could least afford it. Now these defendants must answer for their actions.”
Prosecutors allege that Mattox and Hudson claimed members who signed up and paid an initiation fee would receive materials that allowed them to work and earn up to $5,000 a week from their homes.
“More specifically, the members were supposed to assemble the materials into booklets and mail the booklets to the addresses provided by Mattox and Hudson,” she said. “Mattox and Hudson also claimed that members could earn up to $20 for each booklet that the members assembled and mailed.”
The pair allegedly collected $50-$500 as an initiation fee from each member, said Yates. Most members never got the materials as promised and those who did were never paid for their services, she said.
“After Mattox’s and Hudson’s businesses received a member’s initiation fee, virtually all attempts by the member to contact the work-from-home businesses were ignored,” said Yates. “Finally, to avoid consumer complaints and negative public information, Mattox and Hudson frequently changed the names, websites and contact information of the work-from-home businesses.”
According to a search warrant affidavit, more than 200 people responded to the pair’s advertisements and became members, said Yates. A U.S. Postal Service inspector conducted an undercover investigation by responding to Internet advertisements posted by their businesses but allegedly never received the promised materials after sending payment.
Keith Morris, a U.S. Postal Service inspector in charge, said the agency’s goal is to protect consumers.
“It gives postal inspectors a sense of accomplishment when defendants such as Mattox are brought to justice,” he said. “However, our best defense is spreading awareness about fraud to make the criminal’s job harder. The best way for our customers to protect themselves is to learn how to avoid fraudulent schemes such as reshipping scams, fraud on the Internet and work-at-home schemes.”
The federal charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders, said Yates. An indictment contains only allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent of the charges until proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.