BOSTON – Nineteen Brazilian nationals were charged today with engaging in a nationwide conspiracy to set up fraudulent driver accounts with multiple rideshare and delivery service companies using stolen identities, and to rent or sell those accounts to drivers who might not otherwise qualify to drive for those services.
The alleged scheme also involved using the fraudulent accounts to exploit the company’s referral bonus programs, and using automated “bots” and GPS spoofing technology to increase the income earned from the fraudulent driver accounts. The government estimates that more than 2,000 victims’ identities were stolen and used as part of the scheme.
“The scheme alleged in today’s charges was extensive, violated customers’ privacy, and enabled unqualified drivers to work for rideshare and food delivery services,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “Millions of us rely on these services every day for transportation and to have meals and groceries delivered to our homes. They are an important part of the economy, especially now. We allege that the conspirators took advantage of that by stealing customers’ identities while making deliveries and using those stolen identities to set up fraudulent accounts. That means accounts for unqualified drivers who could not meet minimum qualifications, were not eligible to work in the United States, or could not pass a background check. That’s illegal. I encourage individuals who believe they may be a victim of this fraud to contact my Office.”
“These individuals are accused of executing a nationwide con in which they dragged thousands of innocent people into their scheme by stealing their identities. They thought it would be an easy way to generate some quick money, but in doing so they potentially compromised public safety by putting people behind the wheel who couldn’t get jobs with these companies on their own,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “This massive fraud ring would have been more difficult to detect without the assistance of the victim companies in this case who are making a good faith effort to root out fraud and enhance their customers’ safety.”
The complaint alleges that beginning by at least January 2019, and continuing through at least April 2021, the defendants conspired with each other and with additional conspirators to defraud at least five different rideshare and delivery companies. The scheme involved obtaining images of victims’ driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers, creating fraudulent driver accounts using these identifiers, and renting or selling those accounts. Generally the accounts were rented or sold to individuals who did not otherwise qualify to drive for the rideshare and delivery services because they did not meet minimum qualifications, were not eligible to work in the United States, or could not pass a background check.
The conspirators allegedly coordinated with each other on the prices they charged drivers to use the fraudulent accounts, and shared tips with each other on how to circumvent the companies’ fraud detection systems. The conspirators are also alleged to have fraudulently obtained referral bonuses from the companies by creating fraudulent driver accounts for the sole purpose of referring other fraudulent driver accounts. The conspirators allegedly used “bots” and GPS spoofing technology to exploit the rideshare and delivery companies’ systems. A “bot” is a software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet. GPS spoofing technology allows a user to fake the user’s location.
As a result of the scheme, Internal Revenue Service Forms 1099 were generated in victims’ names for income the conspirators earned from the rideshare and delivery companies.
The following defendants were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud:
Nine defendants 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 charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provide 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 U.S. Attorney Mendell and FBI Boston SAC Bonavolonta made the announcement today. Significant assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police, Concord Police Department, Lexington Police Department, Plymouth Police Department, Wilmington Police Department, Marlborough Police Department, Village of Rye Brook (N.Y.) Police Department, 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.