Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa man accused of scamming Apple out of $309,768

TAMPA — A man ran up a $7,753.22 bill at an Apple store.

When his debit card was declined, he pretended to call his bank. He gave the store clerk a fake authorization code to punch into the card reader.

And that's how the man, 24-year-old Sharron Laverne Parrish Jr. of Tampa, scammed one of the biggest high-tech companies in the world — not once but 42 times — totaling $309,768, according to federal court records.

A Secret Service criminal complaint charges Parrish with wire fraud, alleging that he tricked Apple clerks in 16 states into accepting meaningless override codes. He is accused of hitting the Brandon store twice, along with stores in Orlando, Wellington and Boca Raton.

Parrish, who lists a home address in the River Grove area of east Tampa, was held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail.

The scam was made possible through a practice known as a "forced sale," "forced post" or "forced code."

A credit or debit card gets declined, a customer protests that funds should be available and a merchant calls the card issuer, looking for authorization to proceed.

If the issuer approves, the merchant gets an authorization code, creating a record of the override.

But that code isn't special.

"It does not actually matter what code the merchant types into the terminal," the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey stated publicly in February after a similar case there. "Any combination of digits will override the denial."

(The Tampa Bay Times is withholding the number of digits so as not to inspire anyone.)

The New Jersey case led to a three-year prison sentence for Temeshia McDonald, 29, who defrauded Victoria's Secret, Banana Republic and other retailers out of $557,690. She was ordered to pay restitution.

The Tampa charge was filed by Secret Service Special Agent Bryan Halliwell, with assistance from investigators for Apple and Chase Bank. John Joyce, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Tampa, said the solution is for merchants to not permit hand-keyed overrides.

"The retailer should not be so anxious to make a sale as to override a declination at the cash register," he said.

Karisse Hendrick, program manager for the Americas at the Seattle-based Merchant Risk Council, said businesses have to weigh customer convenience against liability. And, typically, frontline staff at brick-and-mortar stores are thinking more about pleasing customers than about fraud.

But the store clerk should be the one who places a call for authorization, she said.

"There are very creative bad guys who are always going to be looking for the easy way out and can be very convincing even in person," Hendrick said.

Michigan Retailers Association executive John Mayleben recommended in a blog last year that merchants not even trust the phone number on the back of customers' credit cards.

Merchants can wind up liable for charges if they override a denial.

That was the case with Parrish's transaction at the Apple store in Brandon on Jan. 18, 2013, according to the court record.

"Because Apple employees overrode the initial declination against the instructions of Chase Bank, Apple — not the financial institution — suffered the loss as a result of this fraudulent transaction," agent Halliwell wrote.

Parrish was also accused of trying to defraud a car rental company and a hotel in Seattle. But much of his activity took place at Apple stores.

A spokeswoman for Apple in Cupertino, Calif., declined to say if the company has changed any policies at its retail stores. Calls to management of the Brandon store were not returned.

Contact Patty Ryan at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Tampa man accused of scamming Apple out of $309,768 07/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Confederacy loses again, this time in court

    News

    TAMPA — While the Hillsborough County commission was wrestling over the future of Confederate monument at the county courthouse, a lawsuit has been playing out in court over how best to represent the Civil War across town at Veterans Memorial Park.

    Supporters of a Civil War display at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum had a brochure made to attract donations. They argue in a lawsuit that their efforts were thwarted when the park's executive committee changed their plans.
  2. Iconic Ballet Nacional de Cuba ballet will perform at Straz in May

    News

    Besides fine tobacco, Ballet Nacional de Cuba is considered by many to be the island nation's most distinctive export.

    Ballet Nacional de Cuba, one of the world's premiere ballet companies, will perform at the Straz Center in May.

 [Courtesy of Carlos Quezada]
  3. I-275 south closed in St. Pete heading towards Sunshine Skyway

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — All southbound lanes of Interstate 275 on the southern tip of Pinellas County were closed Wednesday afternoon due to a traffic crash with injuries, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  4. Bucs-Jaguars: Five things to watch Thursday in Jacksonville

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs have their second preseason game here Friday against the Jaguars, and here are five things to keep an eye on as Tampa Bay moves closer to paring its roster from 90 players to 53 by Sept. 3.

    1. AVOIDING BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) participates in training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  5. Former Rep. Corrine Brown denied new trial; to be sentenced in November

    Blogs

    JACKSONVILLE (AP)—A federal judge has denied a request for a new trial by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, who was found guilty of taking money from a sham charity that was purported to be aiding poor students.

    Corrine Brown