Members of International Bank Fraud Ring Sentenced to Prison for Role in Scheme
TUCSON, Ariz. – Four members of an international fraud syndicate have been sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with their scheme to manufacture and use fraudulent credit cards using the personally identifiable information of US-based individuals.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Elizabeth A. Strange for the District of Arizona, and Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Phoenix Field Office made the announcement.
“Our office is dedicated to combatting transnational fraud and identity theft,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Strange. “The scope of the fraud scheme in this case was staggering, and we commend our law enforcement partners for apprehending the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.”
“This appalling international scheme illustrates the lengths to which fraudsters will go to game the system for financial gain,” said HSI Special Agent Brown. “We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to hold shameless, brazen fraudsters accountable for their crimes.”
According to admissions made in connection with their guilty pleas, the defendants participated in a conspiracy that bought stolen personally identifiable information, credit card account information, and other financial information over the Internet from individuals located in Ukraine, Tajikistan, and Russia, among other countries. The stolen personally identifiable information and stolen credit card account information were then used to unlawfully manufacture fraudulent credit cards.
Participants in the fraud scheme traveled on multiple occasions from Mexico into the United States and used the fraudulent credit cards to purchase gift cards and high end merchandise, such as iPhones, laptop computers, and designer clothing, from retailers throughout Arizona and elsewhere in the United States. After purchasing merchandise and gift cards, the co-conspirators transported the unlawfully purchased merchandise and gift cards to Mexico for future sale and profit for scheme participants. The defendants admitted in their guilty pleas that they collectively possessed at least 5,684 fraudulent credit cards resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The defendants each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. Today, Rey Martinez-Lopez, 33, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Rosemary Marquez of the District of Arizona.
Judge Marquez sentenced the other three defendants to the following prison terms:
- On Sept. 29, Anwar Barragan Flores, 39, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, was sentenced to seven years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- On Sept. 12, Jorge Williams-Araiza, 38, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, was sentenced to three years and two months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- On Aug. 23, Javier Ramirez-Villegas, 36, of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, was sentenced to four years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release.
- The defendants’ restitution will be determined by the Court at a later hearing, which has not been scheduled yet.
The investigation in this case was conducted by HSI Nogales. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew G. Eltringham, Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, District of Arizona, Tucson and Trial Attorney Rebecca A. Staton of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section.
CASE NUMBER: CR-0184-TUC JGZ (LAB)
RELEASE NUMBER: 2017-110_Martinez_Lopez_etal
For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.justice.gov/usao/az/
Follow the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, on Twitter @USAO_AZ (link is external) for the latest news.
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