Zimbabwe men face 20 years in US prison over Staples fraud

COVINGTON, United States – A 33-year-old Zimbabwe man, Paul Shumbayaonda from Loveland, Ohio, was convicted of getting almost free cameras, printers and computers from a friend who worked at Staples.\r\n

A federal jury on Friday found Paul Shumbayaonda guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud after a four-day trial, according the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors say Shumbayaonda and two of his friends, Huyaimuzoona Bere and Bekizulu Mhlanga, conspired to profit from Bere’s position as a customer service representative at a Staples call center in Florence.

Shumbayaonda and Mhlanga would place Internet orders for items such as ink cartridges and computer disks using personal credit cards. Bere would then access the orders and add high priced items like laptops, printers, and digital cameras, prosecutors said.

He would discount the items to between one cent and $19.99. The trio was charged with wire fraud because the orders were sent from the customer service center in Florence to Framingham, Mass., Staples’ home office.

In one order, Bere added a $2,200 HP computer and two Canon cameras worth $2,800 to an order and manipulated the computer system so that Mhlanga was charged less than a dollar for each item, court records show.

When Shumbayaonda and Mhlanga received the items they would either sell the goods for a profit on E-bay, use the items themselves or sell or give the items to Bere.

The trio completed the scheme at least eight times which resulted in Staples loosing $118,492, prosecutors said.

Shumbayaonda is scheduled to be sentenced March 18. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

A detention hearing for Shumbayaonda will be held Monday.

Bere and Mhlanga each pleaded guilty to conspiracy last month.

Mhlanga, who is from Zimbabwe, will be sentenced on Jan. 22 and Bere will be sentenced Feb. 26. They also face 20 years in prison.