June 18, 2018
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Scarborough man sentenced for mailing belly dancing apparel in postage scam

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

PORTLAND — A stay-at-home father was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to a year of probation for running up a more than $20,000 postage bill mailing packages for his wife’s belly dancing apparel firm.

U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby ordered that Erwin R. Rupert II, 57, of Scarborough be confined to his home for four months of that year, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Rupert, who earned an undergraduate degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy, a law degree from Georgetown University and a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard University, waived indictment and pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud.

Before his sentencing, Rupert paid $21,238.83 in restitution to the U.S. Postal Service, according to court documents.

By pleading guilty, Rupert admitted that between January 2008 and November 2009 he used pre-paid credit cards far in excess of their value to pay for postage, according to the prosecution’s version of events. He purchased postage from automated postal centers, called APCs by the Postal Service, in Portland, South Portland and Scarborough.

In most cases, a single transaction at an APC cannot exceed $50 on a debit or credit card and a customer may not use a single debit or credit card more than 20 times at the same APC, according to the prosecution. The system is designed so that only the first transaction is settled immediately. Subsequent transactions are settled by the debit or credit card issuer at a later time, usually two to three days after a purchase. Processors for the prepaid cards charge the difference between the amount of postage purchased and the amount of credit on the card back to the Postal Service.

Michael Cunniff, Rupert’s Portland attorney, in an e-mail called the sentence “an example of a disposition that serves the best interests of the community and Mr. Rupert through restorative justice.”

“As Judge Hornby stressed today, fraud is a very serious problem in society, which must be taken into account at sentencing along with other considerations identified by Congress — including the particular circumstances of the defendant and the offense,” Cunniff said. “Mr. Rupert fully accepted responsibility for his conduct from the outset of the investigation and at his sentencing hearing. He made restitution in full and his personal circumstances clearly indicate that he is unlikely to be a repeat offender.”

Financial difficulties and mental health problems led Rupert to commit mail fraud, according to court documents. He is described as a stay-at-home father who receives disability.

Rupert faced up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, he faced four to 10 months in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, who prosecuted the case, said the guidelines allowed for a sentence of probation.

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