News and Press Releases

Three Charged With Operating Online Counterfeit Credit Card Retailer Responsible For Estimated $34.5 In Fraud

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 23, 2013

United States Attorney Anne M. Tompkins Western District of North Carolina

Fakeplastic.net Taken Over By Federal Law Enforcement, Ongoing Investigation Has Led To 11 Additional Arrests

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Three men who allegedly ran a one-stop online shop selling counterfeit credit cards and holographic overlays, to be used by criminals to make fake identifications, face federal charges in an ongoing investigation that has already resulted in 11 additional arrests, including a customer facing federal charges.

U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins for the Western District of North Carolina and New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced the charges today.

Sean Roberson, 39, of Palm Bay, Fla., who allegedly ran the site, is charged in an amended complaint, unsealed today in the District of New Jersey, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods or services; and conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with authentication features. A superseding indictment returned today in the Western District of North Carolina charges Roberson’s two conspirators, Vinicio Gonzalez, 30, of Melbourne, Fla., and Hugo Rebaza, 31, of Palm Bay, Fla. with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. The superseding indictment also charges a customer of the website, Nashancy Johnny Colbert, 27, of Charlotte, N.C., with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. All four men are expected to appear this week in U.S. District Courts in Newark and Charlotte to face the charges. Roberson is expected to appear in Newark federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk. The North Carolina court dates have not yet been set.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and the FBI assumed control of the website, fakeplastic.net, on Dec. 5, 2013, and made more than 30 controlled deliveries of ordered materials – not allowing those materials to leave law enforcement control. Those controlled deliveries have resulted in 11 additional arrests of alleged fakeplastic customers, including Colbert, being handled by federal, state and local prosecutors across the United States.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins stated, “This ring of computer criminals ran an online one-stop shop where counterfeit credit cards were a mouse click away. As consumer fraud becomes more sophisticated, law enforcement and prosecutors across the country are joining forces to pull aside the veil of cyberspace anonymity and take down criminal enterprises that pilfer the identities of innocent victims for personal gain.”

“According to the complaint, Sean Roberson and his conspirators ran a large-scale, online operation filling custom orders for counterfeit cards,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “This made-to-measure service provided the last link in the chain necessary for criminals to make money from stolen credit card numbers and identities.”

Inspector in Charge Keith Fixel of USPIS in Charlotte stated, “Protecting the integrity of the nation’s mail system is a top priority for the Postal Inspection Service. Even though these defendants went to great lengths to avoid detection, their scheme was uncovered by Postal Inspectors committed to enforcing the laws that protect the mail from illegal use and bringing to justice those who attempt to compromise the public’s trust in the mail.

“This investigation is yet another example of the unrelenting pursuit of cyber criminals by federal law enforcement,” said Newark FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford. “The FBI and its law enforcement partners will continue to identify and investigate individuals that try to hide in the supposed anonymity of Internet crime organizations in order to steal from innocent parties.”

According to the amended complaint unsealed today in Newark federal court and charging documents filed in the Western District of North Carolina:

USPIS and the FBI, assisted by the U.S. Secret Service, have been investigating the online retail shop, fakeplastic.net, since January 2013. The site specialized in selling high-quality, custom-made counterfeit credit and debit cards (collectively, “payment cards”) as well as holographic overlays used to create fake driver’s licenses.

Roberson began selling counterfeit cards and related items as early as April 2011 and launched the fakeplastic website in June 2012. Roberson owned and operated the site with the assistance of Gonzalez and Rebaza. Since April 2011, Roberson and his conspirators fulfilled orders for approximately 69,000 counterfeit credit cards – both embossed and unembossed – more than 35,000 holographic stickers used to make counterfeit cards appear more legitimate and more than 30,000 state identification card holographic overlays. The orders – more than 3,600 parcels – were shipped through the U.S. mail.

Gonzalez was primarily responsible for manufacturing the counterfeit payment cards, packaging the contraband for mailing and placing U.S. Express Mail envelopes in the mail for delivery to the fakeplastic customers. The conspirators used a storage facility in Florida to store supplies and to manufacture the counterfeit payment cards and Gonzalez frequently visited the storage unit to create the custom-embossed cards and to prepare mail packages. Law enforcement arrested Gonzalez on Dec. 4, 2013, while he was in the storage space – seizing computers, printers, counterfeit cards, an embosser and other contraband.

Rebaza was a “runner” for the criminal operation, responsible for picking up packages containing criminal proceeds and supplies from a “mail drop” for the fakeplastic website.

Colbert was a members-only customer of the website, who placed and received orders of counterfeit payment cards delivered to him through the mail. Law enforcement executed a search warrant on Jan. 3, 2014, at Colbert’s Charlotte residence seizing, among other things, 41 counterfeit payment cards embossed with Colbert’s name or the names of other individuals. Law enforcement also recovered a discarded U.S. Express Mail envelope sent from the fakeplastic website.

Using a conservative estimate of loss of $500 associated with each counterfeit payment card (derived from the federal sentencing guidelines estimation of loss associated with stolen payment card information), law enforcement estimates the losses associated with just the counterfeit payment cards trafficked by Roberson and his conspirators at more than $34.5 million. Roberson personally made more than $1.7 million from the scheme.

The fakeplastic website was used by various groups of criminals across the country often referred to as “carding” or “cash out” crews. These crews buy stolen payment card numbers and related information – referred to as “track data” or “dumps” – which typically appear on the magnetic stripe on the back of legitimate payment cards. Illegal vendors of that information usually get it through hacking or skimming operations involving the installation of specialized equipment at ATM locations or point-of-sale terminals. The stolen data is ultimately put on a blank card and used to make unauthorized transactions.

More sophisticated cash out operations use custom-made counterfeit payment cards embossed with the same account numbers that have been encoded on the back of the card, and often acquire fake identification cards in order to reduce the likelihood of detection from law enforcement.

The criminal underground has evolved from fractured, regional operations to an Internet-based market where buyers and sellers across the globe can advertise, purchase and transmit stolen track data. The fakeplastic website brought the physical tools needed by cash out operations to the world of e-commerce, as it eliminated the need for crews to purchase expensive hardware.

By December 2013, the site had more than 400 members. Members with access to the fakeplastic website and seeking to purchase counterfeit payment cards could browse the website’s available counterfeit card templates. Members could then choose whether to input specific information to be embossed on the cards and whether they wanted additional authentication features – such as holographic stickers.

At one time the website accepted Liberty Reserve online currency, but shortly after federal charges against Liberty Reserve were made public in the Southern District of New York in May 2013, the fakeplastic website stopped accepting that currency and began accepting Bitcoin, a cryptographic-based digital currency. As set forth on the site’s “news” section, Bitcoin was viewed as a “safe” and “anonymous” method of payment for contraband.

The charges and maximum potential penalties for each count are as follows:

Roberson: charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud; penalty: 30 years and $1 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

Gonzalez, Rebaza and Colbert: charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud; penalty: 30 years and $1 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

Roberson, Gonzalez and Rebaza: charged with conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods or services; penalty: 10 years and $2 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

Roberson: charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with authentication features; penalty: 20 years and $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense

U.S. Attorneys Tompkins and Fishman credited inspectors of USPIS, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Keith Fixel in Charlotte and Maria L. Kelokates in Newark; special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; and special agents of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Secret Service under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Russell F. Nelson for the ongoing investigation. The Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division is a partner in the prosecution.

U.S. Attorney Tompkins also thanked Chief Kevin Lovelace and the Rutherfordton, N.C. Police Department for the department’s vital role in this case. Chief Lovelace stated, “I would like to commend the efforts of all of our officers involved with this case in ensuring that the information they obtained was shared with the appropriate agencies. Communication between law enforcement agencies plays a vital role in resolving many cases.”

The government is represented in the Western District of North Carolina by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom O’Malley and Ben Bain-Creed and in the District of New Jersey by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Pak of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan, both of the office’s Economic Crimes Unit, and Barbara Ward of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and money laundering unit; and in Washington by CCIPs Trial Attorney Evan Williams.

The charges and allegations contained in the various charging instruments are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The charges and allegations contained in the various charging instruments are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Gonzalez et al Superseding Indictment
Colbert Complaint
Roberson Complaint
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E
Exhibit F
Exhibit G
Exhibit H
Exhibit I
Exhibit J
Exhibit K
Exhibit L
Exhibit M
Exhibit N
Exhibit O


 

 

 

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