Federal Judge Sends Cuban to Prison for Possessing Debit and Credit Card Account Numbers
|Sept. 19, 2013|
McALLEN, Texas - Pedro Garcia-Morales, a legal permanent resident from Cuba living in Donna, has been sentenced to federal prison for approximately eight years following his conviction of possessing more than 15 unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A McAllen federal jury convicted Garcia-Morales on May 14, 2013, following one day of trial and less than two hours of deliberation.
Today, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez, who presided over the trial, handed Garcia-Morales a 97-month sentence and further ordered he pay $1,359.61 in restitution. In handing down the sentence, Judge Alvarez noted that too many people think credit card abuse is a type of criminal activity that doesn’t really hurt anybody. However, it affects individuals whether they have a lot or a little in their accounts. Several victims struggled while their accounts were closed. Their accounts were overdrawn or they were financially stressed to find money to eat or pay for gas. The court noted that the defendant seemed to be living off of these people for several years.
During trial, the government contended Garcia-Morales, 41, knowingly possessed more than 500 account numbers linked to credit and debit cards belonging to people from all over the United States.
On Jan. 11, 2013, a search warrant was executed at the defendant’s home, at which time agents discovered two laptops, two flash drives, a credit card encoder and 49 gift/prepaid cards that had been encoded with stolen/unauthorized debit or credit card account numbers. The government proved Garcia-Morales knew the cards were to be used to make fraudulent purchases.
In fact, testimony of witnesses established that over a two-year period, Garcia-Morales used international hacking websites to purchase hundreds of account numbers. He then wired money internationally to hackers in China, Vietnam, Romania and the Ukraine. Encoding software on his laptops and flash drives was used to transfer the purchased account numbers on to the magnetic strips of gift/prepaid cards. The cards could then be used at retail stores to make seemly legitimate purchases. However, use of the cards unlawfully charged those transactions to others’ credit and debit card accounts.
Garcia-Morales will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
U.S. Secret Service and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office investigated. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) Kristen Rees and former AUSA Patricia Rigney.