PROVIDENCE – A Revere, MA, man was convicted Tuesday by a federal jury in Boston of defrauding rideshare companies using fraudulent driver accounts that he created using stolen identities.
Thiago De Souza Prado, 39, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud, and three counts of aggravated identity theft. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for Dec. 18, 2023. Prado was indicted in May 2021 along with 17 others, including co-conspirators Flavio Da Silva, Wemerson Dutra Aguiar and Luiz Neto. In March 2023, Aguiar was sentenced to 45 months in prison after pleading guilty to related charges. Da Silva is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 10, 2023. Neto pleaded guilty on Nov. 22, 2022, and fled the country before his scheduled sentencing in April 2023.
According to the evidence presented at trial, starting in 2019, Prado obtained stolen Massachusetts driver’s licenses and bought social security numbers on the darknet. He and his co-conspirators then used the stolen identities to pass the criminal background checks, the sex offender registry check and the driving record check required by the rideshare companies and by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. Prado and his co-conspirators also used the stolen social security numbers for tax reporting on their fraudulent accounts. Once the driving accounts were active, Prado either used the accounts himself or rented them out to others, who also could not pass the background checks, often because they did not have social security numbers and were in the United States illegally. Prado also used his fake driver accounts to get bonuses from rideshare companies by referring his other fake driver accounts as new drivers. In addition, Prado and his co-conspirators used an app, which they called “the drone,” to spoof rides and ride lengths, so that they were paid by the rideshare companies for “ghost rides” or for rides that were longer and more expensive than those actually provided. Prado received payments via bank accounts that he opened in the names of identity theft victims.
The charges of wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years of in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the crime. Each charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory sentence of 24 months, in addition to any other sentence imposed, a year of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain or loss from the crime. The defendant’s sentence will be determined by a federal district judge after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Zachary Cunha and Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Social Security Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Holcomb and Kriss Basil of the Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts are prosecuting the case.
Mr. Cunha was assigned to oversee this matter by the Department of Justice upon recusal of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts.