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Identity Theft Ring Nets $92,600 Before Being Broken Up By The Feds

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SAN JUAN – Seven men and two women have been indicted for their alleged participation in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, access devices fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Puerto Rico.

The U.S. Secret Service is in charge of the investigation, said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. The indictment was unsealed today upon the arrest of the defendants.

The indictment – returned October 1 by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico – includes sixteen charges against: Carlos Bauzó-Vázquez, aka “Carlitos;” Lesville Matos-Bauzó, aka “Billy;” Gloria Bauzó-Vázquez, aka “Milagritos;” Henry Pérez-Díaz; Laydy Mar Feliciano-Miranda; Héctor Vega-Rivera, aka “El Gringo;” José Díaz-Caraballo, aka “Timana;” David González-Ferrer; and Rafael González-Ferrer.

The charges stem from a scheme used by the nine from July 2014 to April 2015 to provide false employment, income, and residency information to Banco Popular de Puerto Rico in order to receive multiple personal loans and lines of credit.

A member of the group would call Banco Popular’s Telebanco Popular service and request a loan using the name, birth date, and social security number of another defendant, Rodríguez-Vélez said.

During the course of the telephone call, false information would be provided to the bank regarding where the person lived and worked she said. Further, false information would be provided regarding the person’s income.

Once the requested loan was approved pending the submission of supporting documentation, members of the conspiracy would take false documents to the bank as evidence of the information provided over the telephone. In particular, the defendants used fictitious companies and falsified payroll documents in support of the loan requests.

The people indicted would then cash the loan checks and distribute the cash to members of the conspiracy. The scheme was repeated multiple times, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. On at least one occasion, credit cards were requested using the same information and documentation fraudulently submitted to the bank for the loan. Members of the conspiracy then made cash advance withdrawals from bank branches and Automated Teller Machines (ATM’s).

The indictment alleges one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1349 and 1344; nine counts of bank fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344, related to loan checks or cash advances fraudulently obtained from the bank; five counts of aggravated identity theft, of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1), related to the possession and use without lawful authority of a means of identification in relation to bank fraud charged in the indictment; and one count of access devices fraud, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(2), related to the use of unauthorized access devices, credit cards, obtained with intent to defraud. The total value of the fraud was approximately $92,600.

If found guilty, nine people indicted face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud, 10 years in prison for access devises fraud, and a mandatory two-year consecutive term in prison for aggravated identity theft.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Erbe.

Indictments contain only charges and are not in and amongst themselves evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The investigation is ongoing.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 50 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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