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Press Release

Conspirator in Counterfeit Credit Card Scheme Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland
Used the Personal Information of More Than 250 Victims to Purchase High End Electronics

Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III sentenced Zachary O’Brien, age 31, of Bronx, New York, today to four years in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, for bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft arising from a scheme to use counterfeit credit cards to purchase merchandise.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

According to his plea, from February 2014, through October 2014, O’Brien conspired with his co-defendants, Jerry Anderson, Steven Harris, Marquis Johnson, and Steven Tejeda, as well as others, to use stolen credit card and other personal information of customers of victim financial institutions to purchase items, including Apple iPhones, at retail locations in Maryland and elsewhere. 

For example, on April 10, 2014, the Baltimore County Police Department (BCPD) responded to a fraud in progress at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland, where Johnson and Harris purchased iPhones with Visa Vanilla gift cards.  Johnson and Harris were arrested and the Visa Vanilla gift cards they used to purchase the phones were recovered and determined to be re-encoded with stolen credit information.  A search of Harris’ phone revealed multiple texts between Harris and Anderson.  Investigation determined that Anderson had supplied the re-encoded cards used by, or recovered from, Harris and Johnson.

On April 17, 2014, a search warrant was executed at Anderson’s home in Towson.  Several items were recovered including: five Blackberry cell phones; two Apple iPhones; two apple iPads; an Apple computer; a shipping box and packaging for a credit card embossing machine; and miscellaneous gift cards.  Anderson was at the residence at the time the search warrant was executed and a room keycard for a nearby hotel was recovered from his wallet.  Later that day, a search warrant was executed at the hotel room.  O’Brien and Tejeda were in the room when the search warrant was executed.  The items recovered from the hotel room included: 30 counterfeit credit cards (re-encoded with stolen credit information); three Apple iPhone 5s; 43 blank counterfeit credit cards; eight pre-paid gift cards (unopened/in packaging); a credit card embossing machine; an Acer laptop computer; a credit card encoder; and over 50 credit cards embossed with the names of either O’Brien, Anderson, or Tejeda. 

Forensic examinations of the computers and other digital media seized during the searches recovered emails containing personal identifying information (PII) of victims, including name, date of birth, and social security number; compromised bank credit card numbers and corresponding customers’ names; and a document containing over 25 credit card numbers and other PII.  Further examination of records recovered during forensic examinations revealed that at least two of the credit card numbers were purchased from a known “carding site” where perpetrators of identity theft and related crimes can purchase stolen credit card numbers and other PII.

O’Brien admitted that he had traveled from New York City to the motel room, where Anderson brought him the laptop and “credit card machine.”  Several counterfeit credit cards were made and distributed to people in the motel room, including O’Brien, and used to buy high end consumer electronics, which were then resold in New York.

The total actual loss resulting from the conspiracy which operated from at least February to October 2014 was $419,807.14, and the potential loss was over $1.8 million.  The conspiracy involved over 250 victims.

Ronnie Mejia, age 26, of Bronx, New York; Marquis Johnson, age 21, of Severna Park, Maryland; and Jerry Anderson, age 29, of Towson, have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.  All are awaiting sentencing.

Steven Tejeda, age 23, of Richmond, Virginia, and Steven Harris, age 23, both of Bronx, New York; also pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to four years in prison.

The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Secret Service, Baltimore County Police Department, and Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ayn B. Ducao and Zachary A. Myers, who are prosecuting the case.

Updated March 2, 2016

Financial Fraud