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Crystal Lake man pleads guilty in federal mail fraud case

Published: Friday, June 13, 2014 12:13 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 13, 2014 4:56 p.m. CDT

CRYSTAL LAKE – A Crystal Lake man pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to a mail fraud scheme that tricked victims into thinking they were part of a "secret shoppers" program.

Michael S. Mackay, 47, played a role in the scheme from September 2011 through at least May 16, 2012, according to a news release from the U. S. Attorney's Rockford-based Northern District of Illinois office.

During his involvement, Mackay received at least $2.5 million in "counterfeit negotiable instruments," such as fake money orders, from places like New York, Nigeria and Ghana, the release said, before sending a portion back out across the country.

He received at least $10,000 from victims and others involved in the scheme, according to the release.

Mackay faces up to 20 years in jail, which could be followed by up to three years of supervised release. He could also face a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the incident, whichever is greater, the release said.

He could also face between one and five years of probation.

Mackay is set to be sentenced at 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 19.

Mackay's targets were those who applied to online work-at-home advertisements. Victims were sent a letter with at least one counterfeit instrument ranging from $500 to $2,000 and told to deposit them, retain a percentage and then wire the remaining money from a local Western Union.

The victims were told to send reports about their shopping experiences via email, the release said.

Under the original charges, prosecutors accused Mackay of sending out more than $1 million of the fake money orders. The accusations also said Mackay mailed packages to at least 665 people. Neither number was included in the plea deal.

The Crystal Lake man originally had faced a second count of mail fraud.

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