Tampa Woman Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison For Her Role In Large-Scale Credit Card Fraud Ring
Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. yesterday sentenced Norma Cabezas-Hernandez to 5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. As part of her sentence, she was also ordered to forfeit her share of the traceable proceeds of the offense, which total more than $655,000. Cabezas-Hernandez pleaded guilty on December 6, 2013.
According to court documents, from at least 2011 through February 2013, Cabezas-Hernandez engaged in a conspiracy to commit access device fraud by using counterfeit credit cards and re-encoded gift cards to make purchases of consumer goods throughout the Middle District of Florida. Her brother and co-conspirator, Michel Lermos-Hernandez, installed and directed others to install key loggers and other skimming devices on credit card readers and point-of-sale terminals in the Tampa area, including locations at the International Mall. Lermos-Hernandez then removed or directed others to remove the devices, from which he downloaded the stolen credit and debit card account numbers and account information. The conspirators obtained the stolen credit and debit account numbers and re-encoded them onto reloadable gift cards to create counterfeit credit cards.
Lermos-Hernandez and others, including Cabezas-Hernandez, used the counterfeit credit cards to purchase retail items such as electronics and store gift cards, which they sold to another co-conspirator for cash.
On February 7, 2013, a search warrant was executed at the residence of Cabezas-Hernandez and her brother, Lermos-Hernandez. Inside, agents recovered $14,515 in cash, a laptop computer, a credit card embosser, a mag stripe reader/encoder, a key logger, and multiple counterfeit credit cards and re-encoded gift cards. Agents also seized a 2005 black Ford Mustang and 2012 Black Nissan sedan, both registered to Cabezas-Hernandez. Counterfeit gift cards were also found inside the Mustang.
The total actual loss identified to date is approximately $655,568.61, including more than 14 federally-insured financial institutions and over 1,000 individuals, whose account information was compromised.
Currently, Lermos-Hernandez is a fugitive. Co-conspirator Viviana Reyes was convicted at trial and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 14, 2014. Danay Crespo-Rodriguez pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, 2014. Lazaro Rodriguez was sentenced on January 22, 2014, to 37 months’ imprisonment. Abel Osoria-Cuok, who was only involved in the conspiracy for approximately three weeks, was sentenced to a term of five years’ probation on February 21, 2014.
This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the United States Secret Service (USSS), all of whom 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.