FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – A member of a group calling themselves the “Interstate Boys” – because their crimes stretched the length of Interstate 95 from Maine to Florida – was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for conspiring to defraud Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and T-Mobile USA by using stolen identities to open phone plans they used without paying and to buy phones they sold at a profit, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Adiel Lopez, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to an Information charging each of the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Judge Salas imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
Two co-conspirators – Ralbert Olacio, 24, and Edwin Rodriguez, 22, also of Brooklyn, N.Y. – previously pleaded guilty before Judge Salas to separate Informations charging one count of wire fraud conspiracy and were each sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Two other co-conspirators – Alfredo Rodriguez, 23, and Jason Cruz, 19, also of Brooklyn, N.Y. – previously pleaded guilty before Judge Salas to separate Informations charging one count of wire fraud conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From May 2010 to July 2011, Lopez, Olacio, Cruz, Edwin Rodriguez and Alfredo Rodriguez, who are not related, conspired with each other and others to defraud Wal-Mart and T-Mobile. During their guilty plea proceedings, each admitted obtaining personal identification information of identity theft victims and creating driver’s licenses in the names of those victims. The defendants acknowledged that they then opened T-Mobile accounts by phone or by going to Wal-Mart stores, including stores in New Jersey. The defendants admitted that once the accounts were open, they bought discounted phones available to new T-mobile customers only at Wal-Marts in New Jersey and elsewhere. They admitted using the phones to make calls they did not pay for and selling the phones to others at a profit.
The defendants obtained the personal identification information, including the names and Social Security numbers, of more than 400 victims. Using this information, they completed T-Mobile’s credit check process and opened more than 400 T-mobile cellular telephone accounts in the names of identity theft victims. After establishing the fraudulent accounts, the defendants traveled to over 350 different Wal-Mart stores located from Maine to Florida on approximately 600 occasions to complete activation of the accounts and to purchase approximately 2,000 discounted cellular handsets for resale.
Retailers such as Wal-Mart typically offer cellular handsets to new T-Mobile customers at steep discounts because they receive incentives from T-Mobile over time that help offset the discount amount. In the event such an account is deactivated for fraud, Wal-Mart does not receive any incentives from T-Mobile and solely bears the losses associated with the discounts it offered. In most cases, the fraudulent T-Mobile accounts were deactivated by T-Mobile for fraud or identity theft shortly after they were established, but T-Mobile suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses as a result of unpaid service charges. Wal-Mart suffered significant losses related to its sale of discounted cellular handsets to defendants because it was unable to recoup the incentives it expected when it sold the equipment. In total, the defendants’ scheme has resulted in approximately $1 million in losses to T-Mobile and Wal-Mart associated with unpaid T-Mobile cellular service, discounted cellular handsets, and the costs associated with investigating the defendants’ criminal conduct.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Salas sentenced Lopez to three years of supervised
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett, for the investigation leading to today’s sentencing. He also thanked T-Mobile USA’s Major Investigations Group and Wal- Mart’s Asset Protection Group, which both worked closely with federal law enforcement during the course of the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gurbir S. Grewal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Defense Attorney: Scott D. Finckenauer Esq., Fairview, N.J.