News and Press Releases

third defendant sentenced in credit card fraud ring

July 17, 2012

NEW BERN - United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court on July 10, 2012, United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan sentenced NELSON ALVAREZ-VASQUEZ, 38, of Houston, Texas to 84 months imprisonment followed by three years supervised release. 

     A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on November 1, 2011.  On March 22, 2011, ALVAREZ-VASQUEZ pled guilty to using unauthorized access devices, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029(a)(2), and to aggravated identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A(a)(1).

According to evidence presented in court, on March 22, 2011, investigators with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office utilized a canine unit to conduct a routine parcel interdiction at UPS in Raleigh. After the canine alerted to a suspicious package, a search warrant was obtained and the package was found to contain marijuana and a white substance which field tested positive for the presence of controlled substances.

The same day, the package was delivered to the residence at the address listed on the package. Soon after delivery, law enforcement executed a search warrant at the residence.  Upon entry, four subjects were located and seized: ALVAREZ-VASQUEZ, Michelle Benavidez, Stephany Abello, and Julio Vidal. In the kitchen, investigators found a credit card embossing machine, two Ipad computers, cameras, gift cards, and unembossed credit cards of various Visa makes. In bedrooms, investigators located a credit card embosser, a credit card reader/writer, multiple laptop computers, cell phones, multiple embossed and encoded credit cards, blank stock credit cards, and $3,338 in U.S. currency. Lastly, investigators recovered hundreds of RedBox DVD’s, many of them duplicates. Criminals engaged in credit card fraud commonly test their fraudulent credit cards on RedBox dispensers before using the cards to make larger purchases at retail stores.  All four subjects were arrested.

The United States Secret Service examined the credit cards and conducted a forensic analysis on the computers and electronic devices seized from the residence.  The cards, computers, and electronic devices were found to contain over 200 fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers, many of which were associated with victims who reported fraudulent activity to their accounts.

The investigation revealed that ALVAREZ-VASQUEZ was part of a credit card fraud ring based in Houston, Texas. The group purchased stolen credit card account numbers from various sources and, using their own device-making equipment, manufactured fraudulent credit cards.  Using these credit cards, they purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, often gift cards, which they then sold for profit. Prior to their arrest, the group traveled to various locations throughout the United States to engage in credit card fraud.  

Benavidez and Abello have been sentenced. Benavidez received 30 months imprisonment and Abello was sentenced to 27 months imprisonment.  Vidal is scheduled to be sentenced on September 4, 2012.

Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Secret Service and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Toby Lathan prosecuted the case.



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