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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 13, 2021

Five Brazilian Nationals Charged in Nationwide Identity Theft Ring that Exploited App-Based Rideshare and Food Delivery Companies and Customers

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mokhtari (619) 546-8402

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 13, 2021

SAN DIEGO – Five Brazilian nationals were charged today by criminal complaint with engaging in a nationwide conspiracy to establish fraudulent driver accounts with multiple internet- and app-based rideshare and food-delivery service companies, including by using identities stolen from the very customers of those same companies.

Four of the five defendants—Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha, Tatiane Pereira Arantes, Natalia Magalhaes Rocha and Leonardo Trulsen De Oliveira—were arrested early this morning by agents from Homeland Security Investigations and other state and federal agencies. A fifth defendant remains a fugitive.  The arrested defendants are due to make their initial appearance tomorrow morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill L. Burkhardt.

According to the complaint, the alleged scheme involved obtaining images and information from victims’ driver’s license and Social Security numbers; creating accounts to drive for the rideshare and delivery companies using those stolen identification documents; using, renting and selling those accounts, including to people who might not otherwise qualify to drive for these companies; incurring IRS Form 1099s for victims’ whose identities were stolen; and using fake driver accounts to collect referral bonuses.  To date, agents have identified close to 100 victims in California and across the United States. 

As alleged in the complaint, this scheme began in approximately 2018, initially with rideshare companies.  In Spring 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing and Californians in  lockdown, the conspirators shifted away from the rideshare companies, which saw a dramatic decrease in traffic, to food, grocery and other delivery companies, which saw a corresponding and precipitous increase in demand. 

During deliveries using these fraudulent accounts, including when verifying IDs, some of the conspirators used the fraudulent accounts to further perpetuate the scheme by stealing additional identities and thereafter creating additional fraudulent accounts in a perpetuating cycle of identity theft. 

“Identity theft is a special kind of misery for victims who often are forced into a years-long legal morass of confusion and frustration to reclaim their good names,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Today’s arrests are the first strike back on behalf of those victims.” Grossman praised the extraordinary efforts of prosecutor Kevin Mokhtari and agents from Homeland Security Investigations to achieve justice in this case.

Cardell T. Morant, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations, San Diego, stated, “HSI San Diego remains dedicated to protecting our communities from technology-enabled consumer crime and identity theft.” Special Agent in Charge Morant further noted the assistance of local, regional, and federal partners on this investigation.

Anyone who may be a victim of this crime or who thinks they may have information that may be relevant to this investigation is asked to call HSI San Diego at (760) 901-1004.

This investigation is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mokhtari and, prior to his departure from the office, was initiated and investigated by former Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis A. DiGiacco.   

DEFENDANTS                                             Case Number 21MJ1891-JLB    

Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha               Age: 29                                       Brazil

Tatiane Pereira Arantes                               Age: 37                                      Brazil

Natalia Magalhaes Rocha                             Age: 29                                      Brazil

Leonardo Trulsen De Oliveira                       Age: 29                                      Brazil

Defendant 5 - Fugitive                                                                                   Brazil                                                                       

SUMMARY OF CHARGES

Count 1 - Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., 1349

Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison, $250,000 fine

Count 2 – Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments – Title 18, U.S.C., 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), (b)(i), and 1956(h)

Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison, $500,000 fine or twice the value of the monetary instruments

Counts 3-17- Aggravated Identity Theft – Title 18, U.S.C., 1028A

Maximum Penalty: Mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison, to run consecutively to the specified felony.

AGENCIES

Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations

Topic(s): 
Identity Theft
Press Release Number: 
CAS21-0513-DeAvila
Updated May 13, 2021