Cuban and Venezuelan Men Sentenced for Aggravated Identity Theft and Access Device Fraud
RALEIGH – United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. announced that United States District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced DIEGO AROSTEGUI, JR, 23, of Cuba and WALTER CORREA-CISNEROS, 32, of Venezuelan to 33 months imprisonment, followed by 3 years of supervised release and ordered them to pay $19,966.00 in restitution.
AROSTEGUI was named in a two-count Criminal Information filed on October 10, 2018. CORREA-CISNEROS was named in a two-count Criminal Information filed on October 23, 2018. Both men pled guilty to one-count of Access Device Fraud and Aiding and Abetting and one-count of Aggravated Identity Fraud and Aiding and Abetting. AROSTEGUI was sentenced on April 17, 2019 and CORREA-CISNEROS was sentenced on April 2, 2019.
In March 2018, the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) was alerted by investigators with the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) fraud division of ongoing fraudulent debit/credit card withdrawals being made from member accounts at various automated teller machines (ATMs) in the Wilmington area. On March 5, 2018, the United States Secret Service (USSS) was notified by the SECU and the WPD that three individuals were attempting to illegally withdraw money from an SECU ATM located on Wrightsville Avenue in Wilmington. Officers responded to that location and conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle being driven by CORREA-CISNEROS. AROSTEGUI and another person were passengers in the car. A search of the vehicle revealed approximately $9,319 in United States currency, numerous debit/credit cards, computers, digital storage media, and two debit/credit card readers/encoders.
Investigators with the SECU’s fraud unit and the USSS determined that the fraudulent debit/credit cards were used at multiple ATM locations in the Wilmington area over a period of several days. Further, the SECU’s fraud unit confirmed that an illegal debit/credit card skimming device had been placed on a SECU ATM in Leland, North Carolina. A forensic search of the seized laptop computers and cell phones revealed 566 individual card numbers which were issued by 71 different financial institutions, including 7 card numbers which were issued by financial institution in Mexico and 1 from India. The intended loss was calculated at $283,000.
On July 3, 2018, investigators received credible information identifying co-conspirators based in Venezuela and the Miami, Florida, area who were involved in the scheme to commit access device fraud. The conspirators downloaded credit card data from Bluetooth debit/credit card skimming devices which were secretly installed in Tritan ATMs. After obtaining the debit/credit card and personal identification numbers (PIN) from the debit/credit card skimming devices, the coconspirators used a credit card reader/writer to reencode counterfeit debit/credit cards. In March 2018, CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI used the fraudulent debit/credit cards at ATMs in the Wilmington area to withdraw funds from multiple victims’ accounts. The investigation revealed that the conspirators were traveling to various states, including Georgia, California, and Florida, to install debit/credit card skimming devices. It is estimated that the group made $250,000 monthly as a result of the fraudulent scheme. CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI and other coconspirators travelled to the Concord Mills Mall in Concord, North Carolina, in December 2017. Two unidentified individuals utilized a computer to install a “virus” on an ATM and CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI stood at the ATM and collected approximately $32,000 in United States currency that was dispensed.
Additionally, investigators learned that in March 2018, CORREA-CISNEROS, AROSTEGUI spent four or five days in the Wilmington area placing pin-hole camera skimming devices on ATMs and collecting account numbers. Those numbers were then encoded onto magnetic stripe cards and used to fraudulently withdraw funds from ATMs. CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI also travelled to the Wilmington area two to three weeks earlier in order to recover debit/credit card skimming devices and computers which were left in a suitcase in a storage unit by another coconspirator. In December 2017, CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI, and others travelled to Charlotte and used debit/credit card skimming devices and pin-hole cameras to collect account numbers which were then encoded onto magnetic stripe cards with those numbers and used to fraudulently withdraw funds from ATMs. During the “cash-out” scheme at the Concord Mills Mall, CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI took turns collecting an estimated $32,000 in United States currency which was dispensed by the ATM.
Based upon the investigation, CORREA-CISNEROS and AROSTEGUI are accountable for committing access device fraud and identity theft from 2017 to March 5, 2018. The offense involved 10 or more victims and the intended loss of the offense is $315,000. Additionally, the offense involved the possession or use of device-making equipment.
Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Secret Service, and Wilmington Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Ethan Ontjes represented the government.