Ring Leader Of Gas-Pump Skimming And Identity-Theft Scheme Sentenced To 12 Years In Federal Prison
Scheme Stretched from Texas into Colorado, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — Antonio DeJesus Perez-Martinez, 44, formerly of Austin, Texas, was sentenced today to serve 144 months, or exactly 12 years, in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for his leadership of a scheme that involved the installation of hidden data-skimming devices inside gas pumps, encoding credit-account data that was harvested by those devices onto "cloned" credit cards, and use of the cards to bulk-buy gift cards and prepaid debit cards at self-checkout lanes of major retailers. Perez-Martinez was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire-fraud, credit-account fraud, and aggravated identity-theft after a trial in U.S. District Court during January 2017, and he is the last of eight defendants charged in a long-running investigation that was conducted by the Lansing office of the FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Grand Rapids Metro Fraud and Identity-Theft Team, and the Grand Ledge Police Department.
The evidence at trial established that Perez-Martinez, a Cuban citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States ("green-card" holder), recruited numerous recently-arrived Cuban citizens – all of whom had entered the United States in 2014 under a special "parole" program that admitted Cuban citizens who presented themselves to immigration authorities at the border – into a fraud scheme that initially involved obtaining compromised credit-account data from illicit websites. During the Summer of 2015, Perez-Martinez switched from acquiring account data online to using "skimming" devices that his accomplices secretly installed inside gas-pumps, and also extended his group’s operation into West Michigan. Skimming devices capture the account data of any card used to purchase gas without interfering with the purchase, leaving the account holder unaware that the data has been compromised until it has been re-encoded onto cloned cards and used to make unauthorized purchases.
Perez-Martinez’ sentence is the seventh prison term imposed in the case: Raul Gonzalez Falcon (29), Yunier Carballo-Pupo (34), Manuel Perez-Cabrera (38), and Michel Velazquez-Gregori (30), none of whom had prior criminal records and all of whom agreed to plead guilty and to cooperate with the investigation, all received sentences of 21 months in prison. Pedro Sanchez-Pupo (32) received a sentence of 37 months. A seventh defendant, Juan Estrada-Galvez, was allowed to plead guilty to a state misdemeanor in Kent County when the investigation determined that his involvement in the scheme had been minimal.
"Perez-Martinez has learned the hard way that West Michigan is the wrong place to visit if you’re engaged in a gas-pump skimming scheme," stated Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. "The odds of getting caught here are good, and if you are caught, then your case will be prosecuted in Federal court and the investigative resources of the FBI will be brought to bear against you. That applies both to those who are caught in the act and to people like Perez- Martinez who might never set foot in West Michigan, but who send their subordinates here. The long arms of federal law caught Perez-Martinez. And those arms aren’t letting go until he serves his time."
"The guilty verdict and subsequent lengthy sentence in this case demonstrate that criminals who engage in identity theft will be held accountable for their crimes. The FBI, along with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners, is committed to safeguarding the public against such crimes and working to ensure the American public is secure in its financial transactions," said David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Division of the FBI.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank.