Frank Miranda and Valerie Pena Plead Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on February 13, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, FRANK MIRANDA, age 46, and VALERIE PENA, age 39, residents of Cedar City, Utah, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Sentencing is set for May 14, 2009. They are currently detained.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
In May of 2007, MIRANDA and PENA came to the attention of the Billings Police Department after a victim of fraudulent card use (R.A. of Santa Ana, CA) contacted authorities about use of his card at Fuddruckers in Billings. When questioned by the officers, Fuddruckers staff said that they could identify the users. When the users returned to Fuddruckers to pick up an order that they had placed with a stolen credit card, police were contacted and MIRANDA and PENA were arrested.
They were interviewed separately at the police department. Prior to being interviewed, MIRANDA said to PENA, "You know what to do. Call Reuben." That appeared to have been a signal to explain the use of the credit card in relation to a fictitious story about R.T., purportedly a business partner of MIRANDA and PENA'S. Separately, they each said that they were using a credit card number they had received through Northwest Chinking for business. They did not know who R.A. was. They said they were to be the new CEO and business manager of Northwest Chinking and that R.T. was a partner handing the business over to MIRANDA. MIRANDA even claimed to have power of attorney for R.T. because of a car accident that injured R.T. severely. Testimony at a trial would have shown that the explanation for the use of R.A.'s card was not true.
Police obtained a warrant and searched the couples' hotel room, vehicle, U-Haul, and PENA'S purse. They found numerous credit card receipts, merchandise bought with stolen credit numbers, and related personal information.
Police checked the credit card numbers and contacted victims. A common link among some of the users was that they were Verizon Wireless customers. PENA formerly worked at Convergys in Utah, which is a call center for Verizon Wireless customers. A Secret Service agent confirmed with an investigator at Convergys that PENA had personally handled credit card information with respect to four of the victims of MIRANDA and PENA's spending spree with stolen credit card numbers - D.T., S.B., B.R., and A.F. For his part, victim R.A. reported that he is a cell service customer of Cingular, and Cingular also has calls processed through Convergys. All of the victims would have testified that MIRANDA and PENA'S possession and use of their credit cards was unauthorized.
They each face possible penalties of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric B. Wolff prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by a cooperative effort between the Billings Police Department and the United States Secret Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.