BOSTON – Fourteen Brazilian nationals were charged in a second superseding indictment by a federal grand jury in Boston this week in connection with a nationwide conspiracy to open fraudulent driver accounts with multiple rideshare and delivery service companies.
In May 2021, 19 defendants were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by using stolen identities and falsified documents to create fraudulent driver accounts for rent or sale to individuals who might not otherwise qualify to drive for the rideshare or delivery services. The defendants allegedly exploited referral bonus programs offered by the rideshare and delivery companies and used “bots” and GPS “spoofing” technology to increase the income earned from the companies. As a result of the scheme, Internal Revenue Service Forms 1099 were generated in victims’ names for income that conspirators earned from the rideshare and delivery companies.
The second superseding indictment also charges 14 of the defendants with aggravated identity theft related to their use of victims’ means of identification in connection with the conspiracy. According to the charging documents, the defendants allegedly used victims’ identifying information to apply for driver accounts with the rideshare and delivery companies, enabling defendants to pass those companies’ required background checks and create driver accounts in victims’ names. At times, defendants also edited victims’ driver’s license images to display photos of the drivers renting or buying the fraudulent accounts in order to circumvent facial recognition technology that the rideshare and delivery companies used as a security measure. The defendants allegedly obtained victims’ names, dates of birth, driver’s license information, and or Social Security numbers from co-conspirators and other sources, including sites on the Dark Net. The defendants and co-conspirators also obtained driver’s license images directly from victims, by photographing victims’ licenses while completing an alcohol delivery through one of the services or while exchanging information with victims following vehicle accidents, some of which defendants or co-conspirators intentionally caused in order to obtain victims’ license information.
The grand jury previously returned a superseding indictment charging two of the 19 defendants in the case with aggravated identity theft in June 2021. Sixteen of the defendants have been arrested in connection with the conspiracy and three remain at large. If you believe that you may be a victim of the allegations in this case, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/victim-and-witness-assistance-program/us-v-wemerson-dutra-aguiar-and-us-v-priscila-barbosa-et-al.
The following defendants were charged this week in the second superseding indictment with aggravated identity theft:
The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a sentence of at least two years in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement. Significant assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police; Concord, Lexington, Plymouth, Wilmington, Marlborough and Village of Rye Brook (N.Y.) Police Departments; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the National Crime Insurance Bureau. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen A. Kearney and David M. Holcomb of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.