Singapore Resident Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Soliciting Millions Of Dollars In Pre-IPO Stock Scheme
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Ricky J. Patel, the Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) in New York, announced today that ESTEBAN CABRERA DA CORTE, a/k/a “Esteban Cabrera,” a/k/a “Esteban Da Corte,” a/k/a “Steban,” LUIS HERNANDEZ GONZALEZ, a/k/a “Luis Hernandez,” a/k/a “Luisito,” and ASDRUBAL RAMIREZ MEZA (collectively, the “Defendants”) were arrested this morning for participating in a scheme to steal millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency and trick U.S. banks into refunding them for the millions used to purchase that cryptocurrency, in part by using personal identifying information stolen from other people. CABRERA, HERNANDEZ, and RAMIREZ will be presented in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, Esteban Cabrera Da Corte, Luis Hernandez Gonzalez, and Asdrubal Ramirez Meza used stolen identities to buy cryptocurrency and then doubled down by disputing the transactions, deceiving U.S. banks into believing that they themselves were the victims of someone else’s fraud. Thanks to the efforts of HSI’s El Dorado Task Force, their duplicity has been uncovered and they now face serious federal charges.”
HSI Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Ricky J. Patel said: “Cabrera, Hernandez, and Ramirez coordinated this large-scale operation to launder millions of dollars through cryptocurrency exchanges and U.S. banks, ultimately exploiting both the virtual currency market and the U.S. financial system. Today’s arrests demonstrate how HSI, along with the U.S. Secret Service and our partners at the Southern District of New York, will continue to work together to leverage the transparency of cryptocurrency transactions to follow the trail of illicit funds and pierce the veil of anonymity.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today, from at least in or about 2020 through at least in or about March 2020, CABRERA, HERNANDEZ, and RAMIREZ engaged in a scheme to deceive U.S. banks and a leading cryptocurrency exchange platform (the “Cryptocurrency Exchange”) by purchasing more than $4 million in cryptocurrency and then falsely claiming that the cryptocurrency purchase transactions were unauthorized, deceiving the U.S. banks and the Cryptocurrency Exchange into reversing those transactions and redepositing the money into the bank accounts that the Defendants controlled. The Defendants then withdrew the money from the bank accounts.
To effect this scheme, the Defendants opened accounts with the Cryptocurrency Exchange, frequently using photos of fake U.S. passports, fake drivers’ licenses, and stolen personal identifying information. The Cryptocurrency Exchange accounts were linked to bank accounts that the Defendants controlled. The Defendants used money that had been deposited into the linked bank accounts, frequently through a series of cash deposits made using ATMs, to purchase cryptocurrency. That cryptocurrency was then quickly transferred to other cryptocurrency wallets outside of the Cryptocurrency Exchange that were controlled by the Defendants and their co-conspirators. After the cryptocurrency was transferred, the Defendants made telephone calls to the U.S. banks during which they falsely represented that the cryptocurrency purchases were unauthorized, leading the banks to reverse the transactions.
The operation of this scheme by the Defendants resulted in U.S. banks processing more than $4 million in fraudulent reversals and the Cryptocurrency Exchange losing more than $3.5 million worth of cryptocurrency.
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CABRERA, 26, HERNANDEZ, 23, and RAMIREZ, 34, all of Miami, Florida, are charged with (1) conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; (2) wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and (3) aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison, to run consecutive to any other sentence imposed. CABRERA is also charged with engaging in a monetary transaction in property derived from wire fraud and bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences in these cases are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by a judge.
Mr. Williams praised the Homeland Security Investigation’s El Dorado Task Force for its outstanding work on the investigation.
The matter is being handled by the Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Emily Deininger is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 The text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.