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Press Release

Kern County Man Pleads Guilty to Six-Year, $825,000 Credit Card Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Miguel Leyva, 36, of Wasco, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges for his role in a long-running credit card fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court records, between February 2016 and August 2022, Leyva and his partner and co-defendant, Karina Arceo, stole the personally identifiable information (PII) for more than 125 victims. They stole much of the PII from patient files at health care providers in Kern County where Arceo worked.

According to court documents, Leyva and Arceo used the stolen PII to open thousands of fraudulent credit cards in the victims’ identities. They used false identification documents to open the credit cards and provided billing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses over which they had control so that any communications related to the credit cards would go to them instead of the victims. They then made hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases on the credit cards in Kern County and elsewhere. The fraudulent purchases included home appliances, automobile accessories, designer clothing, tickets to concerts and sporting events, and travel, among other items.

Often times, Leyva and Arceo resold the items that they fraudulently purchased for cash and reaped a windfall because they did not actually pay for the items. They also used checks that had been stolen from companies in Kern County to access the companies’ bank accounts and make fraudulent payments towards the credit cards so as to keep their scheme going. Altogether, their scheme caused a total actual loss of more than $825,000.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

Leyva is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge, and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to other counts, for the identity theft charge. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft are pending against Arceo. The charges are only allegations; she is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated December 11, 2023

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft