LADUE — A man pleaded guilty Monday to a federal mail fraud charge and admitted an online scam in which he and others sent boxes of rocks to about 50 people who were expecting high-end sneakers or designer clothing.
In all, the scam cost the victims about $15,000, prosecutors said.
Eric Zhu admitted that he and fellow Ladue Horton Watkins High School grad Aaron Umen hatched the scam in summer 2018 and spent that summer and the next offering to trade clothing and footwear on their Instagram account @sneaksofusa, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ware said in court.
After agreeing to a trade, the pair would send a box containing rocks approximating the weight of the item that they were supposed to be trading, Ware said.
In one example Ware gave, a Wisconsin man sent the pair Nike Air "Prestos" sneakers in July 2019 and got rocks in return.
Zhu is scheduled to be sentenced in April and both sides will recommend probation. He will also have to repay the money. Defense lawyer Justin Gelfand said Zhu had returned some merchandise already.
Umen, then 19, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in November to a fraud charge.