Ringleader Of Tampa Credit Card Fraud And Identity Theft Ring Sentenced To More Than 16 Years In Prison
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. today sentenced Michel Lermos-Hernandez (40, Tampa) to 16 years and 7 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The Court also ordered him to pay $714,383.51 in restitution to his victims. Lermos-Hernandez pleaded guilty on March 2, 2016.
According to court documents, Lermos-Hernandez ran 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 account information at the International Mall in Tampa, including one at the Haagen-Dazs ice cream store. Lermos-Hernandez and others then created counterfeit credit cards using the stolen account numbers. Lermos-Hernandez obtained blank credit card stock, embossing machines, and magnetic stripe re-encoders from his co-defendant, Viviana Reyes. He also sold stolen account numbers to Reyes and others.
After making the counterfeit cards, Lermos-Hernandez 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.
On February 7, 2013, a search warrant was executed at Lermos-Hernandez’s residence. Agents recovered $14,515 in cash, a laptop computer, a credit card embosser, a magnet stripe reader/encoder, a key logger, and multiple counterfeit credit cards and re-encoded gift cards. Also pursuant to his arrest, agents seized a Mercedes-Benz sedan that Lermos-Hernandez had purchased for over $130,000.
The total actual loss identified to date is more than $700,000 and the scheme victimized more than 35 federally insured financial institutions, and over 1,000 individuals, whose account information was compromised.
Reyes was convicted at trial and was later sentenced to 12 years in prison. Crespo-Rodriguez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Cabezas-Hernandez pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison. Lazaro Rodriguez was sentenced to 37 months’ incarceration. Osoria-Cuok, who was only involved in the conspiracy for approximately three weeks, was sentenced to a term of five years’ probation.
This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), all of which are members of the USSS’s Credit Card Fraud and Identity Theft Task Force. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Mandy Riedel and Suzanne Nebesky.