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Press Release

Bronx Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Managing A Large-Scale Counterfeit Credit Card Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that LUIS GUSTAVO TAVAREZ pled guilty in Manhattan federal court to managing a large-scale counterfeit credit card scheme involving nearly 200 stolen credit card numbers and over $600,000 dollars in losses to victims. TAVAREZ was charged in May 2014, and pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Luis Tavarez bought stolen credit card information from cybercriminals, and spent the next year lining his pockets with other people’s money. Today’s guilty plea ensures that he will spend time paying for that decision.”

According to the allegations in the Criminal Complaint and Information, and statements made at related court proceedings:

From April 2013 through April 2014, TAVAREZ and his co-conspirators obtained stolen credit card information from computer hackers and “carding” websites, which are Internet-based forums in which users sell and exchange stolen credit card numbers. TAVAREZ encoded that stolen account information onto counterfeit credit cards, which he and a team of accomplices used to make hundreds of unauthorized purchases of store gift cards and merchandise at national retail chains in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The gift cards and retail items were then sold to others or returned to the stores for a cash refund.

As part of the scheme, the defendants and their co-conspirators obtained stolen account information for almost 200 credit card accounts and used that stolen information to make more than $600,000 in unauthorized purchases.

TAVAREZ, 34, of Bronx, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of seven and a half years in prison. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

TAVAREZ is scheduled to be sentenced on December 17, 2014 before Judge Sullivan.

Four other defendants were charged alongside TAVAREZ in connection with the scheme. Two of the defendants, Anthony Reynoso and Plinio Pineda Lopez, previously pled guilty to participating in the fraud. The charges against the remaining defendants, Vicente D. Espinal and Warner Alvarez Almanzar, are merely allegations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the U.S. Secret Service. He also thanked Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations for their assistance with this case.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander Wilson is in charge of the prosecution.

U.S. v. Luis Tavarez Information

Updated May 18, 2015

Press Release Number: 14-248