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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

Friday, May 24, 2013

42 Individuals Indicted And Arrested For Bank Fraud

The intended loss amounts to approximately $1,205,834.15

SAN JUAN, P.R. –On May 22, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted 42 individuals as a result of an investigation led by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) and the Puerto Rico Treasury Department, announced today Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico.  The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and one count of a forfeiture allegation of $580,089.51.

From in or about May 2010 through September 2011, the defendants herein, and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, did knowingly and willfully conspire and agree with each other to commit an offense against the United States, that is, devising a scheme and artifice to defraud Banco Popular de Puerto Rico (BPPR), Banco Santander de Puerto Rico (BSPR), First Bank, Scotiabank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Doral Bank; financial institutions whose deposits were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation [FDIC], and to obtain moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities and other property owned by, or under the custody or control of said financial institution, all by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises relating to a  material fact.

The USPIS and ICE-HSI conducted a Bank Fraud investigation involving approximately 42 individuals from the Humacao, Puerto Rico area.  Since 2010, the organization headed by an individual named Kelvin García-Oquendo engaged in bank fraud, causing losses to several financial institutions in approximately $580,089.51.  The intended loss amounts to approximately $1,205,834.15.

According to the indictment, the organization had individuals performing different roles in furtherance of the conspiracy, such as:  1) leaders and organizers; 2)  recruiters; 3) facilitators who would either open bank accounts or lend existing bank accounts for the deposit of false and fraudulent checks; 4) purchasers who would use ATM cards of the facilitators to purchase Money Gram Money Orders and Postal Money Orders with the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme; and 5) cashers who would go to different post offices to cash the money orders purchased by others.

Throughout the course of the conspiracy, Kelvin García-Oquendo, Luis Luzunariz-Cruz, and Ramón López-García acted as leaders for the criminal organization.  The leaders would create the false and fraudulent checks, determine the amounts to be deposited, and the funds to be withdrawn from the bank accounts in which the false checks had been deposited.  Often times, said defendants did other roles, such as recruiting individuals, purchasing and cashing money orders. 
At different times in the conspiracy, García-Oquendo, Luzunariz-Cruz, López-García, Georgie García-Oquendo, Joel Bezares-Cruz, Oscar Díaz-Maldonado, David Mestre-Cuadrado, Ernesto J. Bravo-Rivera, Jonathan Sierra-Cotto, Ángel L. Crespo, Carlos Delgado-Gómez, Alvin Rivera, Ruperto Rijos-Pérez, José Sànchez-Díaz, María Del Carmen García acted as recruiters of facilitators, purchasers and cashers for the conspiracy.

Codefendants López-García, Alejandro Rodríguez-Arce, Bezares-Cruz, Díaz-Maldonado, Ernesto J. Bravo-Rivera, Crespo, Delgado-Gómez, Rijos-Pérez, Marie Grillasca-Batistini, Edwin Murillo-Rivera, Mayleen Oquendo-García, Yinairy Medina-Castro, Sonia Rivera-Velàzquez, Idalia Santana-Alamo, Gabriel Ramos-Ríos, Héctor Barbosa-Vellón, Jorge M. Agosto, Misha Rodríguez-Lazu, Héctor E. Rivera-Ortiz, Félix Delgado-Vàzquez, Brenda I. Ortiz-Echevarría, Ángel L. Serrano-Valentin, Edgardo Santana-Castro, Ramón Santiago-Matos, William Agosto Díaz, Melitza Naveira-Sanabria, García, Alfonso Capestany, Kenny Quiñones-Vàzquez, Luis Ramos-Pacheco,acted as facilitators for the conspiracy.  Their tasks were: (1) open bank accounts and/or lend existing bank accounts for the deposit of false and fraudulent checks, (2) provide account information used to create the false and fraudulent checks, and (3) lend their ATM cards to others for the purchase of money orders with the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme.

Other codefendants known and unknown to the Grand Jury acted as purchasers by using their own and/or borrowed ATM cards to purchase money orders at Money Gram centers and US Postal Service stations with the illegal proceeds of the bank fraud scheme. The cashers for the conspiracy converted to cash Money Gram and Postal money orders that had been purchased with the illegal proceeds of the bank fraud scheme.

The seven defendants that are facing eight counts of aggravated identity theft are: Kelvin García-Oquendo, Luzunaris-Cruz, Sànchez-Díaz, Georgie García-Oquendo, Raul Marte-Colón, López-García and Delgado-Gómez.  These defendants, aiding and abetting each other, knowingly transfer, possess and use the name, bank account number and information, as well as the automatic teller machine (ATM) personal identification number (PIN) belonging to another person for purposes of retrieving from said bank accounts funds which were the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme.

“The egregious behavior of those who would exploit our banking system for personal and criminal gain will not be tolerated.  We remain committed to investigating and apprehending those who cheat the system,” said US Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez.  “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the banking system and to prosecuting those who would undermine it for their personal gain.”

“These arrests are a reflection of the success that comes when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to target criminal organizations and individuals in Puerto Rico,” said Ángel Meléndez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan.   “At HSI, we follow the money trail to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most complicated financial schemes and seize criminal assets.  We will continue to aggressively investigate fraudulent financial schemes that put in jeopardy the integrity of our financial system and are often a gateway to further criminal activity.” 

“United States Postal Inspectors will continue to aggressively investigate criminals who use the USPS and its products for illegal gain.  We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice those who commit these types of offense.”  Maria Kelokates, Inspector in Charge Newark Division, San Juan Field Office.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Héctor Ramírez-Carbó.  Defendants are facing a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and fines not to exceed $1,000,000.00.  Those defendants charged with aggravated identity theft are facing a mandatory minimum sentence of two years of incarceration consecutive to whatever sentence it’s imposed for the bank fraud charges.

Criminal indictments are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Updated April 14, 2015