A western New York man accused of defrauding six trading card buyers or sellers in four states out of more than $33,000 has reached a plea deal with prosecutors.
Kyle Bertrand, of Greece, entered a plea agreement on March 8 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, located in Rochester. Bertrand pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, a maximum fine of $250,000, a mandatory $100 assessment and a term of supervised release of up to three years.
Bertrand was originally charged with wire fraud and mail fraud on Oct. 11, 2022, by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York.
In the March 8, filing, Bertrand’s alleged crime was found to be in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1343, which relates to wire fraud. The plea deal was categorized as a Level 9 offense under New York law, with a criminal history category of VI. Under those guidelines, Bertrand would typically face a prison term between 21 and 27 months and fines ranging from $2,000 to $20,000. That level also means that Bertrand’s supervised release can also range between one and three years after his sentence is completed.
“Notwithstanding this, the defendant understands that at sentencing (he) is subject to the maximum penalties,” court documents state.
In the original filing, prosecutors alleged that from Oct. 31, 2021, through Feb. 16, 2022, Bertrand made payments — and then revoked them — for cards to sellers and shipped empty boxes to buyers he met online. Bertrand was accused of using several online cash applications to make payments and then revoking the transactions by disputing the charges.
Prosecutors said that Bertrand victimized buyers and sellers from Florida, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania out of $33,360, The Syracuse Post-Standard reported in October. Prosecutors alleged that Bertrand used social media forums to get in touch with prospective buyers about sports cards for sale that he either did not possess or intended to deliver, according to WROC-TV.
According to a criminal complaint, Bertrand would advertise cards online. After being contacted by prospective buyers, Bertrand allegedly negotiated sales prices for cards “that were collectible in nature and valued highly” among collectors.
The advertisements appeared to be legitimate, prosecutors said. However, the buyers claimed that they either received empty boxes or different cards with lesser values than had been advertised.
As a buyer, prosecutors alleged that Bertrand would contact card sellers online and negotiate a price and buy cards through a credit card processing service. Once receiving the cards, Bertrand would dispute his payment through his credit card company and revoke the charges, the criminal complaint alleged.
Prosecutors alleged that on Oct. 31, 2021, Bertrand contacted a seller in Florida via the TikTok app. According to the criminal complaint, Bertrand negotiated a deal and paid approximately $6,010 through the Square payment app. The seller sent the cards via FedEx the next day to Bertrand at an address in Rochester.
According to the complaint, on Nov. 9, 2021, Bertrand then disputed the credit card payment. However, after the seller made contact through social media, Bertrand claimed, “to have no knowledge of the disputes” and refused to return the cards.
The affidavit stated that Bertrand contacted a second seller in Ohio on Nov. 3, 2021. He negotiated a price and paid $4,200 via Square. Again, Bertrand disputed the payment and refused to return the cards.
The biggest example of alleged fraud occurred in Florida on Nov. 19, 2021, when Bertrand contacted a seller via Instagram and negotiated a deal for sports cards that totaled more than $20,000, according to the criminal complaint. Bertrand paid again through Square but again disputed the transaction with his credit card service.
The victim contacted Bertrand via Instagram and later through a recorded telephone call. After initially denying the disputes, Bertrand allegedly told the victim that he had returned several of the cards and offered to contact Square to resolve the dispute. According to the complaint, Bertrand never returned the cards or the payment.
Bertrand’s next alleged victim was a buyer in California who made contact through Facebook on Dec. 14, 2021. The buyer agreed to a deal and sent $2,100 to Bertrand through PayPal the next day. According to the criminal complaint, Bertrand immediately transferred the money to his Visa credit card “in a likely attempt to prevent” the victim from disputing the transaction and getting his money back.
The victim received a package on Dec. 20, 2021, that contained cards “of negligible value.” When the victim contacted the seller, Bertrand refused to send the cards or refund the money.
On Jan. 11, 2022, a buyer from Missouri responded to an advertisement Bertrand had posted on Facebook and agreed to pay $600 for certain cards. The victim sent the money through CashApp. Two days later, the victim received an empty box delivered by a UPS truck, with Bertrand’s return address stating he was in Davenport, a city just west of Walt Disney World in Central Florida.
The victim attempted to get a refund through CashApp but was unsuccessful, according to the criminal complaint. That person never received the money or any cards.
The final victim, from Pennsylvania, contacted Bertrand on Feb. 15, 2022, through Facebook to buy certain cards that were listed for sale. The two agreed on a price of $450, and the victim sent the money through Venmo, according to the criminal complaint.
The next day, the victim received an empty package sent from the address in Davenport. Attempts to reach Bertrand were unsuccessful.
The March 8 plea deal also stipulated that Bertrand must make restitution for the $33,360 he was accused of stealing.