PROVIDENCE – A Providence woman appeared in U.S. District Court today and admitted to her role in a far-reaching multi-state fraud scheme that defrauded banks, finance companies, car dealerships, and retailers of more than $1.3 million.
Yenesia Pujols, 47, admitted to the court that beginning in as early as June 2016, she began to work with Octavio Andres Difo-Castro, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, who previously admitted to the Court that he employed several individuals, including Pujols, who, at his direction, opened bank accounts and applied for and received financing for automobiles, clothing, and electronic devices using fraudulent driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, and other documents he created with stolen information he purchased on the Dark Web.
Difo-Castro admitted that at his direction several individuals opened bank accounts using fraudulent IDs he provided to deposit and withdraw fraudulently obtained funds; to pose as both the seller and the buyer of vehicles in order to fraudulently secure bank and/or credit union financing from financial institutions in several states; and to obtain retail store credit and make purchases at clothing and cellphone retailers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
Appearing today before U.S. District Court Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., Pujols admitted that she allowed her photograph to be used to create several counterfeit driver’s licenses in the names of individuals whose personal identifying information had been stolen. Pujols admitted that she used the stolen IDs to gain credit for the purchase of $4,146.22 worth of Apple iPhones from several Massachusetts retailers. Additionally, Pujols admitted that she used stolen identifying information to open bank accounts and defraud various credit unions of $78,500.
In addition to her participation in the fraud schemes, Pujols admitted to the Court that in January 2016, she filed an application with the Social Security Administration and was approved to receive disability benefits. In October 2016, Pujols used a fraudulent driver’s license with her photograph and the stolen name and personal information of another person during the application and hiring process to gain employment with a temporary job placement service. Pujols admitted that while working for the temporary employment service she collected $3,498 in Social Security Disability payments she was not entitled to receive.
Pujols pleaded guilty today to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and Social Security fraud, announced United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman; Stephen Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service; and Scott E. Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.
Pujols is scheduled to be sentenced on January 14, 2019.
Difo-Castro pleaded guilty on September 19, 2019, to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to access device fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and nineteen counts of wire fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 13, 2020.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha.
The investigations were led by the U.S. Secret Service, with the assistance of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.
United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman acknowledges and thanks the United States Postal Inspection Service; East Providence, Warwick, Seekonk and Mansfield Police Departments; and the Rhode Island State Police for their assistance in the investigation of these matters.