Ring Leader Of Credit Card Ring Arrested After More Than A Year As A Fugitive
Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Michel Lermos-Hernandez, the alleged ring leader of a massive credit card fraud and identity theft conspiracy, has been arrested after more than a year as a fugitive. He was first charged by complaint on May 23, 2013, and was subsequently indicted on July 29, 2013, for conspiracy, credit card fraud, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, he faces maximum penalties ranging from 5 to 30 years in federal prison on each conspiracy, fraud, and identity theft count, and a mandatory 2-year consecutive term in prison for each of the three aggravated identity theft counts. Lermos was released on a bond and fled on or about November 10, 2013.
According to court documents, Lermos allegedly led a credit card fraud ring in which conspirators obtained credit card numbers by placing key loggers on credit card terminals that intercepted and stored swiped credit and debit card account information at the International Mall in Tampa, including the Häagen-Dazs ice cream store. Lermos and others then created counterfeit credit cards using the stolen credit and debit card account numbers. Lermos obtained blank credit card stock, embossing machines, and magnetic stripe re-encoders and also sold stolen account numbers to his co-defendant, Viviana Reyes, and others.
After making the counterfeit credit cards, Lermos provided them to his co-conspirators, including his sister, Norma Cabezas-Hernandez, his girlfriend, Danay-Crespo Rodriguez, and at least two other individuals, including Lazaro Rodriguez and Abel Osorio-Cuok, who used the cards to purchase electronics and gift cards at Tampa area retailers. The conspirators then took these items to Reyes, who paid them in cash for the fraudulently obtained merchandise. Reyes then sold the items at a discounted price.
Agents estimate that the actions of the conspirators in this case have impacted more than 1,000 identity theft victims and the loss to date to the affected financial institutions exceeds $650,000.
Lermos’s co-defendants have all been adjudicated guilty and sentenced as follows:
- Viviana Reyes was sentenced to 12 years’ incarceration on May 14, 2014, after a four-day trial during which she was found guilty on all counts of conspiracy, credit card fraud, bank fraud, and identity theft charges.
- Danay Crespo-Rodriguez was sentenced to seven years in prison on July 1, 2014, after pleading guilty to credit card fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges.
- Norma Cabezas-Hernandez was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on April 23, 2014, after pleading guilty to credit card fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges.
- Lazaro Rodriguez was sentenced to three years and one month in prison on January 24, 2014, after pleading guilty to credit card fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges.
- Abel Osorio-Cuok was sentenced to five years’ probation on February 25, 2014, after pleading guilty to one count of credit card fraud conspiracy.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of one or more federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the United States Secret Service (USSS), all of which are members of the USSS’s credit card fraud and identity theft task force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Suzanne Nebesky.
Lermos’s apprehension was made possible by the tireless efforts of the U.S. Secret Service, FDLE, TPD, and the U.S. Marshals Service.