Ringleader Sentenced to over 5 Years in Prison in Scheme to Use Stolen Credit Card Information Purchased over the Internet

Members of the Conspiracy Used Over 1,000 Stolen Credit Cards
Resulting in Loss of Over $500,000

July 29, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr., sentenced Robert Bernard Forrest, age 40, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 61 months in prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to defraud banks and credit card companies using stolen credit card information. Judge Quarles also entered an order that Forrest pay restitution of $521,312.67.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.

According to Forrest’s plea agreement and other court documents, from September 25, 2005 through November 12, 2008, Forrest and his co-conspirators Byron A. Green, Michael Hayes, John Forrester and Tomeka V. Harris, defrauded banks and credit card companies using stolen credit card information. Forrest purchased from the Internet stolen credit card “track data,” the account information encoded on the magnetic strip on the back of credit cards and gift cards. Forrest then used sophisticated electronic equipment to re-encode the stolen track data onto credit cards and gift card. As he became more proficient, he edited the track data before re-encoding, so that the name stored on the credit card matched the person who was attempting to use the fraudulently re-encoded card. Forrest and his co-conspirators then used the re-encoded cards to purchase merchandise and gift cards, or recruited other individuals, such as co-defendant John Forrester, to conduct transactions using the fraudulent cards. These individuals, known as “strikers,” would be paid cash or a percentage of the goods the co-conspirators were able to obtain using the fraudulent cards.

As the conspiracy progressed, Forrest assisted Green and Hayes in obtaining the equipment to edit track data and re-encode cards themselves, and eventually provided Green and Hayes information which allowed them to purchase the stolen credit card track data directly from websites on the Internet. Michael Hayes initially provided re-encoded cards to Tomeka Harris, who used the fraudulent cards herself and recruited others; but Harris, too, eventually purchased the equipment to re-encode the stolen credit card information onto credit cards and gift cards herself.

Altogether, the members of the conspiracy transferred and used credit card information relating to over 1,000 stolen credit cards issued by more the 10 financial institutions. The total loss was $521,312.67.

After previously pleading guilty to the same charges, on June 24, 2010, Byron A. Green, age 29, of Baltimore, was sentenced to 75 months in prison and was ordered to pay $521,312.67 in restitution. Michael Hayes, age 31, of Baltimore, was sentenced to 144 months in prison on June 22, 2010 after admitting to additional offenses of breaking his electronic monitoring, fleeing the jurisdiction and committing a new fraud offense while under pre-trial supervision. Tomeka V. Harris, age 33; also of Baltimore, was sentenced to four years in prison on December 17, 2010 and John Forrester was sentenced to 39 months in prison on June 11, 2010.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein Assistant United States Attorney Tamera L. Fine, who prosecuted the case.

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