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Press Release

Arizona Man Pleads Guilty to Role in Scheme to Steal Money from U.S. Bank Accounts

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

An Arizona man pleaded guilty today in San Diego federal court to conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

According to court documents, Luis Ramirez, 42, of Mesa, helped to obtain “leads” for fraudsters who sought to steal money from the bank accounts of unknowing U.S. victims. The “leads” consisted of financial information for the prospective victims that included bank account numbers. Ramirez and his coconspirators used “leads” that originated from payday loan applications of consumers across the United States. As part of his guilty plea, Ramirez admitted that more than $1.5 million in loss was reasonably foreseeable to him.

“Those who knowingly supply fraudsters with personal and financial information about potential victims cause enormous harm to the American public,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals who sell such information for illicit purposes.”

“The Postal Inspection Service is dedicated to protecting American consumers,” said Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s (USPIS) Criminal Investigations Group. “In this case, small transactions were used to conceal the scheme, but that wasn’t enough to fool postal inspectors or keep us from adding it all together to put a halt to this fraud.”

Ramirez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 11, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Related cases against other scheme participants have previously been filed in Los Angeles and in Las Vegas. In May, a grand jury in Los Angeles returned an indictment charging 14 defendants with RICO conspiracy and other charges in the Central District of California. The indictment alleges that the defendants and associates debited consumers’ bank accounts without authorization and used shell entities and “micro debits” to conceal the activity from banks. “Micro debits” serve to conceal fraud by grouping unauthorized charges with a large number of low-value, straw transactions to lower the fraudster’s chargeback rate. Another scheme participant, Harold Sobel, pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy in federal court in Las Vegas. In December 2022, Sobel was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

USPIS is investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Wei Xiang, Meredith Healy and Amy Kaplan of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Central and Southern Districts of California.

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch.

Updated December 20, 2023

Topic
Consumer Protection
Press Release Number: 23-1456