Feds: Meth addict in Monroe hacks into Amtrak, steals $540K in vouchers, sells them on eBay

Christian Newby accused in Amtrak voucher scheme

A man waits at the Amtrak ticket counter at Pennsylvania Station, May 31, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

MONROE, Mich. - An alleged meth addict with a pipe bomb and loaded weapons in Monroe is accused of hacking into Amtrak's online system to buy more than $540,000 worth of tickets with stolen credit card information, canceling the tickets to receive vouchers and then selling those vouchers at a discounted price on eBay, according to officials.

Police said Christian Newby was addicted to methamphetamine and in possession of a pipe bomb, two pistols, a rifle, an assault weapon, magazines and ammunition while running the scheme.

Stolen credit card information

From March 29, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2019, in Chicago, Southeast Michigan and other locations, Newby is accused of running a scheme to steal credit card information from Amtrak customers. Officials said he obtained information for more than 1,100 credit cards without the owners' consent.

A victim from Houston is specifically listed in the criminal complaint.

Authorities said Newby would use the stolen credit card information to buy Amtrak tickets online using Amtrak.com or the Amtrak mobile app.

While he was making the purchases, Newby used a Chicago company's virtual private network to conceal how he was accessing Amtrak.com and the mobile app, according to court documents.

Tickets canceled to obtain vouchers

After buying tickets using stolen credit card information, Newby would cancel the tickets and receive vouchers from Amtrak for the value of the tickets, court records show.

Since the Amtrak tickets were purchased with stolen credit card information, the real account holders paid the cost of the tickets, according to authorities.

The banks issuing the credit cards or Amtrak would incur the cost if customers contested the charges, records show.

Vouchers sold at discounted price on eBay

Newby would advertise the vouchers on eBay.com at a fraction of their true value, officials said.

He used the names of third parties without their knowledge to create eBay accounts and sell the vouchers, according to court records.

Newby would usually list vouchers for sale on eBay before purchasing the tickets online or obtaining vouchers, federal officials said.

After an eBay customer bought a voucher, Newby would either buy an Amtrak ticket using stolen credit card information and create a voucher or use an existing voucher to fulfill the order, according to court records.

Newby would receive payment for Amtrak vouchers via PayPal, officials said. The PayPal accounts were registered under the names of third parties without their knowledge, authorities said.

The scheme caused Amtrak to issue more than $540,000 in ticket vouchers, officials said. That money was taken from Amtrak, credit card issuing banks and credit card holders whose information was stolen, according to authorities.

Specifics named in complaint

Two specific details of the alleged scheme are referenced in the criminal complaint.

The first is a transmission on July 31, 2018. Court records say Newby transmitted certain writings signs and signals from Chicago to another location to post an eBay advertisement for an Amtrak voucher worth $373.

On Aug. 6, 2018, Newby is accused of using the Houston resident's identity in the act of a felony, court records show. He is facing one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with this incident, officials said.

Pipe bomb, guns, ammo found

Officials said Newby was addicted to meth on Feb. 1, 2019, when they found him in possession of a pipe bomb, guns, magazines and ammunition.

Authorities found a device described as a "galvanized pipe and end caps, with a green fuse protruding from the device, containing explosive powder, weighing approximately 430.91 grams."

Four guns were also found.

The first was a Kahr Arms Model E9 9 mm-caliber pistol, officials said. It was loaded with a seven-round magazine with an additional round in the chamber, according to authorities.

Newby also had a Keltec Model ROB 5.56-caliber assault weapon loaded with a stick magazine and one round in the chamber, according to court records.

Officials found an Inter Ordnance Model AK Sporter 7.62-caliber rifle loaded with 70 rounds of ammunition in a drum magazine plus one round in the chamber, court records show.

The fourth gun was a Fabriqu D'Armes De Guerre De Precision "Libia," a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol, officials said. It had a six-round magazine and seven .25-caliber bullets, according to authorities.

Charges

Newby is charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and unlawful use of controlled substances in possession of firearms and ammunition, officials said.

Newby forfeits property obtained in scheme

The criminal complaint orders Newby to forfeit any property he obtained from the proceeds of the scheme.

About $208,615 was seized in February, officials said.

Authorities also seized $3,590.72 from a University of Michigan Credit Union account, $5,798.20 from a JPMorgan Chase Bank account and $3,362.03 from a Bank of America account.

Officials seized $1,794.65 from a PayPal account, according to court documents.

Newby was also told to forfeit jewelry, including a Rolex watch, a steel bezel and other items.

Officials also seized two 1985 1-ounce Gold Maple coins, one 1986 1-ounce Gold Maple coin, one 2014 1-ounce Gold Krugerrand coin, one 1976 1-ounce Gold Krugerrand coin and one 38.0 Dwt silver ingot.

Newby was also ordered to forfeit any firearms, ammunition and destructive devices involved in the scheme, including those found in February, according to the criminal complaint.

Items were seized from homes on East Lewis Avenue in Milan, Exeter Road in Carleton and Groveport Road in Obetz, Ohio, according to court records.

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