Ex-mobile phone industry executive gets 10 years in U.S. prison

By Nate Raymond

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - A former mobile phone industry executive was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison after being convicted on U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to defraud millions of consumers by charging them for unwanted text messages.

Darcy Wedd, the former chief executive of Mobile Messenger, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan after a federal jury in December found him guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy charges, prosecutors said.

The verdict followed two earlier mistrials. A lawyer for Wedd, 40, did not respond to a request for comment

Wedd is one of eight people to be convicted on charges related to their participation in the fraud, which involved forcing consumers to pay monthly fees for unsolicited, recurring text messages without their knowledge or consent.

Prosecutors said that Wedd's company compiled, or "aggregated," charges for premium text messaging services like horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia on consumers' mobile phone bills.

The company worked with four different content providers who sent consumers the unwanted texts to carry out the scheme, which involved a practice called "auto-subscribing," prosecutors said.

While users typically ignored or deleted the messages, these consumers were nonetheless billed for the services at a rate of $9.99 per month, even though they never ordered them, prosecutors said.

Wedd was convicted on charged related to two of the content providers. Prosecutors in court papers said auto-subscribing schemes related to those companies defrauded consumers out of $153 million.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Tom Brown)