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Crystal Lake man charged in 'secret shopper' scheme

Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 5:08 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 11:27 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake man faces federal charges for mail fraud after allegedly sending out more than $1 million in counterfeit money orders as a part of a "secret shopper" scheme.

Michael S. Mackay, 46, faces two counts of mail fraud for his role in the scheme, which started in Sept. 2011, and lasted through at least May 16, 2012, according to a release from the United States Attorney's Office.

Mackay received at least $10,000 from victims, the release said.

Under the scheme, people were asked to participate in a secret program to evaluate their experiences with local businesses.

For their participation, victims of the scheme were given counterfeit money orders ranging from $900 to $2,000. They were asked to deposit them at their financial institutions and then go to their nearest Western Union and wire a percentage back, the release said.

Victims learned the money orders were counterfeit only after they had wired the money.

Each count of mail fraud carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, as well as either a $250,000 fine or a fine totaling either twice the loss or twice the gain, whichever is greater.

Throughout the scheme, Mackay received at least $2 million in counterfeit financial instruments, including money orders, from New York, Nigeria and Ghana.

Two or more fake money orders and a "secret shopper" letter were stuffed into envelopes and mailed to at least 665 victims across the U.S., the release said.

The fake money orders were made to look like they were issued by the U.S. Postal Service, American Express, Capital One Bank, National Bank of Texas, First National Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union.

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