News and Press Releases

Conspirators Posed as Bank Employee to approve Purchases on Overdrawn Debit Cards

April 11, 2008

RICHARD GAMEZ, 48, of Seaside, California and CASSANDRA WOOD, 21, of Bakersfield, California, were sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle for Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud. GAMEZ was sentenced to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $99,028 in restitution. WOOD was sentenced to 31 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and $124,883 in restitution. U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez ordered that both get credit for time served in state jail and prison in connection with what he termed a “multi-state, multi-year crime spree.”

GAMEZ and WOOD were members of a conspiracy that between April 2006, and July 2006, traveled the west using overdrawn debit cards to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury items. The scheme worked like this: WOOD or another conspirator would enter a store and select various high value items such as jewelry or home electronics. The purchaser would attempt to use a prepaid debit card at check-out. In truth, the card had already been cancelled for being overdrawn. However, when the debit card was refused at check-out, the customer would claim the limit for that day must have been exceeded, and would provide the clerk with a telephone number to call to speak with the bank about approval. The phone number went to a co-conspirator who would pose as a bank employee, would authorize the purchase, and would tell the store clerk to run the purchase using the off-line charge slip procedure. The store would not realize the fraud until a few days later, after the conspirators had left town. GAMEZ was involved in fraudulent transactions with 45 different merchants in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Idaho. The purchases totaled more than $114,000 before GAMEZ was arrested in Spokane, Washington on June 15, 2006. According to records filed in the case, GAMEZ pawned the items for cash or traded them for drugs.

WOOD victimized sixty-one merchants in California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan, causing losses of more than $136,000. WOODS was arrested in California on August 2, 2006. She was serving time in prison in California on state charges related to this case, when in November 2007 she was brought to the Western District of Washington for the indictment. WOOD will get credit on her federal sentence for the 17 months she has already spent in state prison. Both WOOD and GAMEZ pleaded guilty in January 2008.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department and the Tacoma Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Janet Freeman as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office working group on Identity Theft.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.

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