Five people have been arrested and warrants have been issued for 17 others in an elaborate scheme to defraud Comcast of more than $2.4 million during a one-year period from April 2011 – April 2012, according to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

The district attorney’s office said Alston Buchanan, 28; Leighton Harrell, 26; Kendall Singleton, 26; and Richard Justin Spraggins, 29, all of Philadelphia; and Nicholas Caputo, 31, of Virginia Beach, Va., were “top members of an elaborate criminal organization” that led Comcast customers to make one-time payments to them in exchange for a one-time reduction in their Comcast service bills, according to an article from Patch.

In all, 5,795 customers paid $150 to have promotional discounts applied to their cable accounts, giving them premium channels and lower rates they were not entitled to, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said in an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Authorities said that to fulfill this bogus agreement with customers, Buchanan, a former Comcast employee and contractor for Comcast, illegally accessed the equipment room of a Comcast subcontractor at its office in the Hatboro section of Upper Moreland Township.

Inside that facility, Buchanan allegedly installed an unauthorized computer that he used to remotely access and manipulate the accounts of customers enrolled in the scheme, the Patch article says.

Comcast became aware of the scheme earlier this year and tracked the account manipulation to the Upper Moreland office. Following an April 9 power outage, investigators aimed a security camera at the equipment area, knowing that a third party would have to return and reactive the unauthorized computer. Buchanan was allegedly seen accessing the equipment area on security footage the following day.

Within an hour, authorities say, 96 customer accounts were “accessed and manipulated.”

Buchanan allegedly paid one Comcast subcontractor $5,000 for her user ID in order to gain access to the Comcast accounts, in an agreement allegedly brokered by Leighton Harrell, the article says.

The five arrested persons are charged with criminal conspiracy, theft of services, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity, computer theft, computer trespass and numerous related charges.

The other 17 people not in custody are described as “agents in this corrupt organization” by the district attorney’s office, as they were allegedly involved in soliciting customers for the scheme.

District Attorney Risa Vetri