Criminal Justice

E-book author and her group charged in community-service scam; prosecutors say it may be widespread

An enterprising author of e-books about the dangers of caffeine addiction used an online community-service scheme to increase her profits, New York prosecutors say.

Marina Kushner, 47, is accused by the Manhattan district attorney’s office of selling bogus certificates of completion online to individuals sentenced to community service, according to the Associated Press and the New York Daily News.

She and the Caffeine Awareness Association she founded are charged in Manhattan with offering a false instrument for filing on behalf of one individual, among other offenses, and have pleaded not guilty. However, prosecutors said bogus certificates of completion were advertised as available to customers in all 50 states and the scheme may have been widespread.

Some $200,000 was in a PayPal account associated with websites that advertised the scheme, which required individuals to purchase e-books about caffeine addiction and then take a test. Certificates of completion were reportedly forthcoming even if the wrong answers were provided.

A judge in Oregon called the community-service scheme “a well-known scam” last year, KATU reported at the time. And KOMO reported in 2012 that it was being offered in the Seattle area, although local prosecutors said it didn’t appear such certificates were actually being used by defendants there.

Kushner’s lawyer, Peter Schaffer, said she is pondering a possible plea deal that would not involve jail time. He declined to comment after a Monday court hearing, the Daily News reported. Bail for Kushner was set at $25,000.

Related coverage: “Defense Lawyer Criminally Charged, Accused of Submitting Fake Certificates of Completion for Clients”

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