According to the office of U.S Attorney Aaron Weisman’s office, a woman from Providence, Rhode Island, has been sentenced to two years and a day in prison after admitting to playing a role in a dark web multi-state fraud and identity theft scheme. 48-year-old Yenesia Pujols pleaded guilty on October 15, 2019, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, social security fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The Providence woman was also ordered to pay a restitution fine of $86,144 coupled with a three-year supervised release.
Court documents revealed that the 48-year-old woman willingly agreed to take on the role of bank and retail store customers by opening several bank accounts across many states. These bank accounts were opened and exclusively used to deposit fraudulent proceeds including car loan checks and the siphoning of cash. The Providence woman also posed as different customers at Sprint retailer stores which and fraudulently obtained several powerful smartphones which were later sold by another co-conspirator in this multi-state fraud and identity theft case.
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Pujols also confessed to illegally obtaining and using stolen or compromised private information of an American woman on the dark web to apply and gain employment. These stolen personal identifying information included the American woman’s date of birth, name and social security number. Court documents stated that the Providence woman played her role in the dark web multi-state fraud and identity theft scheme whiles making claims of being disabled and unable to work to Social Security. The 48-year-old again admitted to using another set of stolen personal identifying information on another American citizen and fraudulent documents, provided by a co-conspirator, to change and improve her physical appearance through cosmetic surgery.
The office of the U.S Attorney revealed that the Providence woman, together with other culprits, worked with Octavio Andres Difo-Castro of Edgewater, New Jersey who was identified as the leader of the fraud and identity theft ring. 29-year-old Difo-Castro who hails from the Dominican Republic, pleaded guilty on September 19, 2019, to one count of conspiracy to access device fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, nineteen counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity fraud.
Difo-Castro also admitted as part of his guilty plea to being the leader and mastermind of the dark web ring that purchased stolen and compromised personal information including bank account and credit card details, Social security numbers and other information on the dark web. The dark web ring would then use the stolen information they obtain from the dark web to create several driver’s licenses and open fraudulent bank accounts of which they applied and received financing for automobiles. The dark web fraud ring also opened retail credit accounts with the stolen information to purchase electronic devices online, clothing, furniture, and jewelry, some of which were displayed on Instagram whiles some were also shipped to the Dominican Republic.
The New Jersey man also admitted to instructing several of his ring members and co-conspirators in this case, to open fraudulent bank accounts using fake IDs that he provided to deposit and withdraw the proceeds of their criminal activities. His ring members also used the fake IDs to pose as buyers and sellers of vehicles to fraud banks and credit unions and other financial institutions in multiple states by obtaining financing from them. The dark web ring reportedly obtained retail store credit with the stolen information and made purchases in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Difo-Castro is scheduled for sentencing on March 17, 2020.
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Another co-conspirator who admitted to playing a role in the fraud and identity theft scheme has also been sentenced to 36 months in federal prison. 52-year-old Angel L. Morales, of New York, pleaded guilty on September 3, 2019, to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three counts of bank fraud.
The New York man admitted in court to using stolen information on the dark web to open fraudulent bank accounts in a bid to obtain car loans. He added that, once the fraudulent loans were obtained, he would then deposit the funds into accounts created by his co-conspirators so they can quickly withdraw the money before the banks realized that the whole transaction is a scam. Morales was also handed a 3-year-supervised release after his sentence and was ordered to pay $116,000 restitution to the banks and other financial institutions he helped defrauded. He was sentenced by U.S District Court Judge John J. McConnell.
Other culprits charged in the investigation includes 25-year-old Providence native Reynaldo Martinez, who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to two counts of access fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft one count of bank fraud, one count of attempted access fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and a single count of interstate transportation of stolen goods. He was handed a 48-month deferral prison sentence and ordered to pay a restitution fine of $38,126.62 to businesses he defrauded.
33-year-old Donald Wicklund also pleaded guilty in April 2018, to five counts of aggravated identity theft, five counts of fraudulent use of a Social Security Number two counts of wire fraud, and three counts of bank fraud. Jason McDonald, another culprit also pleaded guilty in March to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy and attempted bank fraud, and the fraudulent use of a Social Security number. He was sentenced to 39 months in federal prison last year.
This case was investigated by the U.S Secret Service with help from the United States Postal Inspection Service and the East Providence, Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General and Office of Investigations, Mansfield Police Department and Seekonk Police Department.
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