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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 8, 2015

Tampa Man Sentenced To Seven Years For Credit Card Fraud And Identity Theft

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday has sentenced Ricardo Romero-Mesa (44, Tampa) to seven years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft.  The Court also ordered him to forfeit $13,423.79, which are the proceeds traceable to his criminal conduct. He pleaded guilty on January 15, 2015.

According to court documents, in early 2014, investigators identified Romero-Mesa and Lazaro Hernandez-Cabrales as co-leaders of a credit card fraud ring.  Together, and with others, they used numerous stolen credit and debit card account numbers to generate counterfeit credit cards. They used the credit cards to purchase hundreds of reloadable Visa gift cards.  The gift cards were then used to purchase items at home improvement stores, which were later returned in exchange for cash.

Investigators determined that the conspirators initially purchased the stolen account numbers, many from Navy Federal Credit Union and Armed Forces Bank, from an online website based in Eastern Europe.  Later, Hernandez-Cabrales stole account numbers by obtaining keys to gas pumps and installing skimmers.

On February 17, 2014, during a search of the residence shared by Romero-Mesa and Hernandez-Cabrales, investigators seized more than 200 gift cards, credit cards, and hotel room keys, some of which had been re-encoded with other credit and debit card account numbers. Agents also recovered computers, receipts from merchandise returns, high-end purses and clothing, and receipts for the purchase of wire transfers from the United States to Ukraine. Further investigation revealed that Hernandez-Cabrales had wired more than $23,500 to recipients in Ukraine and Russia to purchase at least 800 stolen account numbers from a website that offers them for sale.

In total, investigators recovered more than 1,000 stolen credit card numbers issued by at least 15 different financial institutions.

Lazaro Hernandez-Cabrales previously pleaded guilty for his role in this case. On February 10, 2015, he was sentenced to five years and ten months in federal prison.

This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the United States Secret Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Identity Theft
Component(s): 
Updated May 8, 2015