At least 10 individuals were involved in a national mobile phone fraud conspiracy dating back to 2014. Over $1.5 million was lost during this illegal activity but justice soon will be served. So far 12 people have been indicted to appear in Federal Court in Manhattan, New York, by Magistrate Judge, Katharine H. Parker. The charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, and Homeland Security senior special agent of New York, Angel M. Melendez.
According to the report these are the 12 indicted individuals: Isaac Aquino, Mario Diaz, Guillen Tomas, Ronnie De Leon, Argelis Jose Diaz, Pena Joel, Diaz Jhonatan, Sanchez Ruddy, Eddy Morrobel, Roque Michael, Gonzalez Joandra, Rayniel Robles. Isaac Aquino, also known as “Kaka” is the groups leader. The initial arrests took place by the special task force El Dorado in New York State.
The accused and their accomplice stole and accessed over 3,300 individual’s cell phone accounts. Furthermore, they fraudulently obtained over 1,200 cell phones which led to the loss of more than a million dollars in credit. Six of the suspects were apprehended in Manhattan, while a seventh, Ronnie De Leon was caught by police in Ohio. His arraignment has been in a separate jurisdiction under the court Judge Elizabeth Preston Deavers, Southern District of Ohio.
The remaining of the group, including Pena Joel, Sanchez Ruddy, Gonzalez Joandra and Roque Michael at this time remain out on bail.
Per the United States Attorney, Geoffrey S. Berman, the accused conspired to hack mobile device accounts for criminal gains.
Per the allegations unsealed by the court: The defendants worked with a fraud ring operating in the Dominican Republic, New York, Ohio and on the Dark web. Their operations left a trail of unsuspected individuals which cost a significant loss in businesses all over the United States. To increase their fraudulent success, they stretched their campagin across 30 states, making this a Federal and State crime.
Purchased from darknet markets were people’s identities, including pertinent information for opening a cell phone account, such as a personal identifying information (“PII”) number such as a social security. Without any chance of preventing phishing activity, fake phone calls were made to upgrade services in an attempt to steal more money through services. Customers would be upgrading a phone that they did not even have in their possession.
An HSI raid uncovered 40 electronic devices, 10 laptops and lists of over 3,000 customer accounts, and a trail of potentially 1,000 mobile devices purchases over the last few years. Also found was a how-to video with 15 minutes explaining how to commit the crimes in question.
Most of the purchases were made using cryptocurrency and Bitcoin. Additionally, a history of the computers web browsers revealed multiple connections to cellular companies and their upgrade pages online.
All the accused were indicted on the one count of connivance of committing wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Furthermore, one count to the conspiracy of identity theft, a 24-month sentence, which would be served simultaneously to any other rulings.
This case is being prosecuted by the Assistant United States Attorney’s Michael D. Neff together with Brett M. Kalikow.