If the charges against Alston Buchanan are true, he's helped keep a lot of Philadelphia residents on the couch.
Buchanan, a former Comcast employee, and the others are believed to have sold service upgrades to more than 5,000 Comcast customers at an off-the-books discount. The customers got their premium channels while Buchanan and his associates -- the scheme may have involved as many as 23 people, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney's office -- allegedly walked away with the cash.
Risa Vetri Ferman, the Montgomery County DA, said that Buchanan was "extremely clever" and "able to circumvent sophisticated technical systems" to provide the illegal cable hookups, according to CBS News. Buchanan, who has been described as the ringleader of the group, worked as a dispatcher at Comcast and Advanced Communications, Inc., a Comcast subcontractor, between 2007 and 2010.
The scammers would approach people "in the beauty salon, at the bar, at a local restaurant," and offer to cut them a deal on cable, Ferman told reporters.
All in all, Buchanan and his associates allegedly provided hookups to 5,795 people. Their success is perhaps unsurprising when you consider how many Comcast subscribers have dropped the service in recent months, perhaps due to the abundance of cheaper Internet video streaming services, like Hulu and Netflix.
Successful or not, the scheme unraveled when one member of Buchanan's group approached a woman at a hair salon who happened to be a Comcast employee, according to reports.
In the video above, from CBS News, Buchanan doesn't look especially consumed by guilt.
He tells reporters, "I guess you could say it's a modern-day, like, kind of Robin Hood-type thing" and goes on to explain, "Wouldn't you be grateful if you were paying $178 a month, and next thing you're paying 70? Like oh, this is great."