Leader of Counterfeit Credit Card Ring Sentenced To 9 Years In Prison
Over 250 Victim Individuals and Institutions Sustained Losses of Over $126,000 or Had Their Identities Stolen
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced Michael Crew, age 54, of Owings Mills, Maryland, today to nine years in prison followed by three years of supervised release, after Crew pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, arising from his use of stolen credit and debit cards to manufacture counterfeit credit cards used to buy merchandise and services. Judge Quarles also entered an order that Crew pay restitution of $126,318.99, the amount of the actual loss to victims.
The plea and sentence were 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 Gary Gardner of the Howard County Police Department; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Chief Ross C. Buzzuro of the Ocean City Police Department; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Newport News Police Chief Richard W. Myers; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Acting Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
According to his plea agreement, Crew had an embossing machine, and made credit cards using altered gift cards and the credit card and debit card numbers stolen from others. The stolen credit card account numbers were obtained from a variety of sources. Once a valid number was obtained, co-defendants would use an algorithm to derive other valid numbers, which they would confirm by calling customer service for the issuing financial institution. These numbers were used to manufacture counterfeit access devices bearing the stolen credit and debit card account numbers. The counterfeit access devices were then used to make unauthorized purchases of goods and services.
Generally the gift cards used to manufacture the counterfeit credit cards were shoplifted from stores. For example, on June 13, 2012, Crew was arrested when he attempted to shoplift gift cards at the Shoppers Food Warehouse in Howard County. Crew received a citation and was released.
Crew generally did not use the counterfeit credit cards himself, but either sold them or had others use them. Sometimes he told them what to purchase, such as gift cards, electronics and luxury linens which he resold.
On March 12, 2013, a search warrant was executed at Crew’s residence. Dozens of counterfeit gift cards were recovered bearing stolen credit card numbers and, in some cases, the names of co-defendants; numerous receipts from items purchased with counterfeit cards, 122 blank plastic cards, computers, cell phones, notes with credit card account information, and a notebook containing credit card numbers.
During the conspiracy, which continued through the arrest of the final defendants on June 7, 2014, Crew and his co-conspirators accessed or attempted to access credit card accounts with credit limits of between $400,000 and $1 million, using the financial account numbers of real people. More than 250 individuals and institutions were defrauded by the scheme.
To date, five other defendants have pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and await sentencing.
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 www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Secret Service; Howard County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, Ocean City and Newport News Police Departments, HSI Baltimore and Maryland State Police for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tamera L. Fine, who prosecuted the case.