News and Press Releases

Three charged with operating online counterfeit credit card retailer responsible for estimated $34.5 million in fraud



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 23, 2013


 

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

NEWARK, N.J. – 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.

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

The FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) 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.

“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.”

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.”

“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.”

“The defendants in this alleged criminal enterprise used convenience, greed and their technical ability to commit a massive fraud,” USPIS Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates. “Their undoing came when they underestimated the vigilance of Postal Inspectors and their law enforcement partners to bring to justice anyone who uses the U.S. Mail for illegal activities.”

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

The FBI and the USPIS 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 maximum potential penalties for each count are as follows:


Defendant

Charge

Maximum Penalty

Roberson

Conspiracy to commit wire fraud

30 years; $1 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense

Gonzalez
Rebaza
Colbert

Conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud

30 years; $1 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense

Roberson
Gonzalez
Rebaza

Conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods or services

10 years; $2 million fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense

Roberson

Conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with authentication features

20 years; $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense

U.S. Attorneys Fishman and Tompkins credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ford in Newark; and inspectors of the USPIS, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates in Newark and Inspector in Charge Keith Fixel in Charlotte, for the ongoing investigation. The Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division is a partner in the prosecution. The U.S. Attorneys also thanked the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Secret Service and Rutherfordton, N.C., Police Department for their vital roles.

The government is represented 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; in the Western District of North Carolina by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom O’Malley and Ben Bain-Creed; 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.

14-025                                               

Defense counsel:
Sean Roberson: Assistant Federal Public Defender Patrick McMahon, Esq.
Hugo Rebaza: Jose Rodriguez Esq., Orlando, Fla.
Vinicio Gonzalez: Christopher C. Fialko Esq., Charlotte; Ernest Leo Chang Esq., Melbourne, Fla.
Nashancy Colbert: Laura M. Cobb, James Bradley Smith, Esqs., Charlotte         

Roberson, Sean 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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