FBI details attempt to defraud Microsoft co-founder
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at the annual Allen and Co.'s media summit in Sun Valley, Idaho, Friday, July 10, 2009. (AP / Nati Harnik)
Published Tuesday, March 27, 2012 12:04PM EDT
PITTSBURGH - A U.S. soldier's scheme to defraud one of the world's richest men has landed him in federal custody.
In a criminal complaint unsealed Monday, federal investigators allege Brandon Lee Price changed the address on a bank account held by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, then had a debit card sent to his home so he could use it for payments on a delinquent Armed Forces Bank account and personal expenses.
Price was absent without leave at the time.
Price called Citibank in January and changed the address on an account held by Allen from Seattle to Pittsburgh, then called back three days later to say he'd lost his debit card and asked for a new one to be sent to him, an FBI investigator wrote in a criminal complaint filed in February.
The card was used to attempt a $15,000 Western Union transaction and to make a $658.81 payment on the Armed Forces Bank loan account the day it was activated, according to the complaint. Surveillance footage captured Price trying to make purchases at a video game store and a dollar store, authorities alleged.
Investigators found Price was listed as absent without leave from the Army and wanted as a deserter, authorities said in the complaint. He was arrested March 2 and ordered detained until April 2 unless the Army takes him into custody.
David Postman, a spokesman for Allen, said the fraud was detected by the bank, which alerted law enforcement officials. The only transaction -- out of four listed in the complaint totalling $15,936.99 -- that apparently made it through was the loan payment, Postman said.
"Clearly, it's a reminder that anyone can be a victim of this," Postman said.
The complaint doesn't specify how Price allegedly changed the address on the account. A phone message left for Citibank was not immediately returned Tuesday.
An email to Price's public defender wasn't immediately returned, nor was a voicemail left at a phone number for Price listed in the complaint.
Allen made the bulk of his fortune founding Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975. He left the company in 1983. He is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., the company that manages his business and charitable undertakings. Forbes estimates Allen's net worth at $14.2 billion.
WPXI-TV first reported Price's arrest.