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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Thursday, August 27, 2015, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. sentenced three members of a conspiracy involving the sale of over 69,000 counterfeit credit cards, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Judge Conrad imposed prison terms on the three defendants ranging from 12 to 36 months and ordered restitution totaling $61,696.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Thomas L. Noyes, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Matthew Quinn, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Charlotte Field Division.
Vinicio Joseph Gonzalez, 32, of Palm Bay, Florida, was sentenced to 36 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $61,696 in restitution. Judge Conrad also ordered Gonzalez to forfeit seized computers and electronic devices, including high-end color printers and embossing equipment, Bitcoins and $4,800 in seized cash. Gonzalez pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.
Nashancy Johnny Colbert, 39, of Charlotte, was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $61,696 in restitution. Colbert also pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy.
Hugo Rebaza, Jr., 33, of Palm Bay, Florida, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release. Rebaza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit goods. A fourth related defendant, Sean Roberson, 40, of Palm Bay, is awaiting sentencing in the District of New Jersey.
According to information contained in filed documents and statements made in court:
In 2012 and 2013, Roberson owned and operated a membership-only, e-commerce business and website, known as Fakeplastic.net. The website sold counterfeit credit cards and counterfeit debit cards to its members-only customers, as well as holographic overlays used to make fake identification cards. The Fakeplastic website enabled criminals involved in credit and debit card fraud and identity theft fraud to browse, order and purchase from an extensive inventory of genuine-looking, but counterfeit, magnetic-stripe plastic credit and debit cards. The Fakeplastic counterfeit payment cards were ready to be encoded with stolen payment card data, known in underground carding forums as “track data” or “card dumps,” onto the magnetic stripes of the counterfeit payment cards. New Fakeplastic customers had to be sponsored by existing Fakeplastic members or others involved in illegal online carding forums dealing in stolen credit and debit card track data.
Fakeplastic customers, totaling approximately 400 in December 2013, were able to select the type and quantity of counterfeit payment cards and counterfeit holographic overlays they wanted to purchase. For an additional fee, Fakeplastic customers could order custom embossing on the face of the counterfeit payment cards to include information typically associated with genuine payment cards, including cardholder names, payment card account numbers, and payment card expiration dates. Fakeplastic customers were required to pay for their orders in Bitcoin, Liberty Reserve (a now-defunct online payment service) and, in some cases, cash.
Approximately 23,000 embossed counterfeit payment cards, costing $12 each, and approximately 46,000 unembossed counterfeit payment cards, costing $15 each, were sold and distributed through the Fakeplastic website. Fakeplastic sales also included more than 35,000 holographic stickers used to make counterfeit cards appear more legitimate, and more than 30,000 state identification card holographic overlays. Fakeplastic shipments exceeded 3,600 parcels shipped through the U.S. mail.
Gonzalez worked in Fakeplastic’s warehouse, processing purchase orders compiled by Roberson. Gonzalez manufactured the counterfeit payment cards and packaged the completed orders in U.S. Express Mail envelopes for overnight delivery to Fakeplastic customers. Rebaza’s role was limited to money pickups at a mail delivery service, sent by a group of New York-based Fakeplastic customers who paid cash, for approximately 16,000 unembossed counterfeit payment cards over a nine-month time period. Colbert was a Charlotte-based Fakeplastic customer. Colbert purchased approximately 230 counterfeit credit and debit cards from the Fakeplastic website, the bulk of which Colbert purchased soon after his release from a four-month state jail sentence for obtaining property by false pretenses.
Acting U.S. Attorney Rose credited inspectors of USPIS, special agents of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Secret Service and Chief Kevin Lovelace and the Rutherfordton, N.C. Police Department for the investigation, and thanked the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, and Newark-based agents with USPIS and the FBI for their assistance.
The government is represented in the Western District of North Carolina by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tom O’Malley and Ben Bain-Creed.