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Sept. 20, 2012

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Houston Man Sent to Prison for Identity Theft

HOUSTON – Joseph Russell, 31, has been sentenced to 65 months in prison following his convictions of access device fraud and  aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. Russell pleaded guilty after one day of trial on Jan. 31, 2012.

Today, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller sentenced Russell to a 41-month-term for the fraud charge and 24 months on each of two convictions of aggravated identity theft which will be served concurrently for a total sentence of 65 months. He was further ordered to serve a three-year-term of supervised release following completion of that prison term and ordered to pay a $300 fine along with $91,803.61 in restitution.

The investigation had begun when the U.S. Secret Service received a complaint regarding fraudulent credit card charges that took place in Houston. Agents were able to obtain surveillance videos of Russell using gift cards re-encoded with victims’ credit card numbers throughout the Houston Area. Russell was subsequently arrested and his vehicle and hotel room were searched, at which time he was found to be in possession of gift cards re-encoded with the debit/credit card information of 18 different individuals from throughout the United States.

Evidence presented during the trial included video footage from various Wal-Mart locations depicting Russell using debit/credit card information without the cardholder’s permission. Several victims also took the stand and testified they did not know Russell and had not given him permission to possess their debit/credit card information.

Russell has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Leuchtmann and Jay Hileman prosecuted the case.