Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that LUIS GUSTAVO TAVAREZ was sentenced to 90 months in prison for his role in a large-scale counterfeit credit card scheme involving credit card numbers stolen from nearly 200 victims and over $600,000 in losses. TAVAREZ pled guilty on August 28, 2014, to conspiracy to commit access device fraud. TAVAREZ was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “In what is becoming an increasingly common fraud, Tavarez bought stolen credit card information from hackers and used it to fuel his own greed. I would like to thank the United States Secret Service for their investigative work on the case.”
According to the allegations in the Criminal Complaint, Information, plea allocution, and other court documents:
From April 2013 through April 2014, LUIS GUSTAVO TAVAREZ was one of the managers of an extensive counterfeit credit card fraud scheme operating in half a dozen states along the East Coast in 2013 and 2014. As part of the scheme, TAVAREZ purchased stolen credit card information from computer hackers who remotely compromised databases containing credit card numbers, both directly and from “carding” websites where stolen credit card numbers are sold. TAVAREZ then produced counterfeit credit cards that were encoded with the stolen account information. He personally used those counterfeit cards to make unauthorized purchases of store gift cards and retail items, and also provided them to co-conspirators who acted as “shoppers” at his direction. In total, TAVAREZ and his co-conspirators, including Deivi Martinez-Brito, Anthony Reynoso, Plinio Pineda Lopez, Vicente D. Espinal, and Warner Alvarez Almanzar, used counterfeit cards to make hundreds of 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 cash refunds.
As part of the scheme, TAVAREZ and his co-conspirators obtained stolen account information from almost 200 victims and used that stolen information to make more than $625,000 in unauthorized purchases.
Two days after pleading guilty on August 28, 2014, TAVAREZ fled and became a fugitive from justice. He was apprehended by the United States Marshals Service on September 16, 2014, at a bus station in Indianapolis, Indiana, and returned for sentencing.
TAVAREZ, 34, of Bronx, New York, was also sentenced to three years’ supervised release, restitution and forfeiture judgments in the amount of $627,441.96, and was ordered to pay a $100 special assessment.
Pineda Lopez, 24, of Bronx, New York, pled guilty and was sentenced on January 12, 2015, to six months in prison and six months’ home confinement by U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan. Reynoso, 25, of Bronx, New York, pled guilty and was sentenced on January 29, 2015, to six months in prison and six months’ home confinement by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman. Martinez-Brito, 25, of New York, New York, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Gregory H. Woods, and is scheduled for sentencing on June 2, 2015. Alvarez Almanzar, 21, of New York, New York, pled guilty before Judge Richard J. Sullivan and is scheduled for sentencing on April 17, 2015. The prosecution of Espinal, 25, of Bronx, New York, is ongoing.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the United States Secret Service. He also thanked the Office of Homeland Security Investigations for their assistance with this case, and the United States Marshals Service for their successful apprehension of TAVAREZ after he fled.
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.
The charges contained in the Criminal Complaint and Information are merely accusations and the defendant whose prosecution is ongoing is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.