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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington

Friday, October 25, 2013

Former California Rap Artist Sentenced to 9+ Years in Prison for Bank Fraud, Access Device Fraud and Aggravated ID Theft

Defendant Possessed More Than 30,000 Credit Card Numbers And Continued Scheme Following First Arrest

A California rap artist who performed under the name “Guerilla Black” was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 110 months in prison and five years of supervised release for a scheme to use credit card numbers stolen in Seattle in other states, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  CHARLES TONY WILLIAMSON, 36, of Torrance, California, was on the user end of the fraud involving hacks of point of sale credit card processing at businesses in Seattle and Shoreline, Washington, and at various businesses across the U.S.  WILLIAMSON purchased credit card numbers in bulk from a hacker based in Maryland and from various ‘carding’ websites so that he and his associates could use them for fraud.  At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “the impact of the crime is tremendous …from the banks and small businesses” to the runners who now have felony records.

“Undeterred by his first arrest and indictment, this defendant continued to direct platoons of co-schemers to use stolen credit card numbers and continue his digital crime spree,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.  “I commend the dedicated agents who tracked his fraud through cyberspace – using critical skills and techniques to trace both the hacks and the frauds to dismantle the network.”

WILLIAMSON was indicted in July 2012, following the investigation into point of sale hacking at a restaurant in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle and a retail store in Shoreline, Washington.  Two men have already been sentenced for their roles in the hacking scheme.  David Benjamin Schrooten, 21, a Dutch citizen arrested in Romania, where he operated a carding website making the credit card numbers available for fraud was sentenced in February 2012 to 12 years in prison.  Christopher A. Schroebel, 21, of Keedysville, Maryland, who hacked into point of sale systems to steal credit card information was sentenced to seven years in prison in August 2012.  Schroebel was a key supplier of credit card information to WILLIAMSON.

Between January 11, 2011 and February 26, 2012, WILLIAMSON received and possessed at least 27,257 stolen credit card numbers, including cards issued by American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover.  The total number of stolen card numbers exceeds 30,000 following WILLIAMSON’s criminal conduct during the period of his pretrial release.  Federal law allows for a formula to determine the scope of the fraud by attributing a loss of $500 per credit card number, resulting in an estimated fraud loss in this case of $15 million.

Records in the case reveal how WILLIAMSON communicated by email with co-conspirators, telling them that he wanted to purchase “dumps” of stolen credit card numbers “in bulk,” that is lots of 100, 500 or more.  WILLIAMSON indicated that he wanted “freshly” stolen numbers so they would be easier to use, since the customers would not yet know their information had been stolen.  Additional records show that while WILLIAMSON was on release pending trial, he continued his criminal conduct by producing counterfeit credit cards and using stolen credit card numbers.  WILLIAMSON was rearrested following a lengthy investigation by the Manhattan Beach Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force in Seattle and USSS Los Angeles Fraud Task Force.  In his plea agreement WILLIAMSON admits the credit card fraud both before and after his arrest on the indictment in the Western District of Washington.  WILLIAMSON has remained in custody since his arrest in January 2013.

The case was investigated by the Seattle U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force and Seattle Police Department as part of the Task Force, with assistance provided by the Manhattan Beach (California) Police Department and the Los Angeles Field Office, U.S. Secret Service.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kathryn Warma.

Updated March 23, 2015