GREENBELT, Md. — A businessman pleaded guilty yesterday to rigging pay phones he owned to robotically call toll-free numbers repeatedly so he could collect the 50-cent fee owed for each call, illegally racking up $4 million.
Nicolaos Kantartzis acknowledged using more than 100 pay phones in the Washington area to make phantom calls to toll-free numbers belonging to companies and the government. The entity on the receiving end must pay costs that include a cut for the company that operates the pay phone. Authorities say the scheme spanned six years and 8 million bogus calls.
Kantartzis, 62, pleaded guilty in federal court in Maryland to wire fraud, which could carry a prison term of up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine. His attorney, David Irwin, said after the hearing that Kantartzis has repaid the money from the scheme and agreed to forfeit his phones.