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Pay phone owner pleads guilty to $4M in robocalls

WASHINGTON — A businessman has pleaded guilty to rigging pay phones he owned to robotically call toll-free numbers, illegally racking up $4 million in 50 cent fees.

Nicolaos Kantartzis pleaded guilty in federal court in Greenbelt on Monday to programming his pay phones to make repeated phantom calls to toll-free numbers belonging to companies and the government. Such calls are free to legitimate users, but the owner of the toll-free number ultimately pays the pay phone owner.

As a result, Kantartzis got a fee each time his phones rang the numbers, even if no one was on the other end of the line. Authorities say the scheme spanned six years and 8 million bogus calls.

Kantartzis’s lawyer says that his client has already repaid the government the cost of the fraud.

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