(CNSNews.com) -- Twelve people were charged in New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania on Thursday for a nationwide cellphone fraud scheme.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the group, called the “Fraud Ring,” obtained more than $1 million in “valuable, new electronic devices, such as iPhones, iPads, tablets and watches.” The Fraud Ring had been working since at least 2014 and traveled to at least 30 states, ICE said in a statement.
“The Fraud Ring regularly engaged in intrusions into existing customers’ accounts with cellular service companies and obtained new phones or ‘upgrade’ phones by paying only a small fee in the store, while charging the vast majority of the purchase price to existing customers’ accounts, without the consent or knowledge of these existing customers,” said ICE.
“The scheme’s victims therefore included both customers, whose identities were stolen and/or whose accounts were accessed without authorization, and cellphone service providers, which typically bore financial losses for fraudulently obtained devices,” reads the statement.
In addition, investigators seized computers that contained the indicators of the fraud happening, including a 15-minute “How-to” video, “which detailed the steps necessary to commit cellphone fraud, including how to use victim PII to fraudulently purchase devices,” indicators that the computers had accessed the dark web, and “Google searches in furtherance of the fraud,” said ICE.
Some of the fraud indicators and searches included “best buy upgrade checker phone,” “att activate phone,” “verizon.com check order status,” “check my order status sprint,” “add authorized user last name,” “California driver license number format,” “Utah driver license photo,” and “most common last names for Spanish rich people.”
ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations in New York’s El Dorado Task Force worked with the New York Police Department and the Westchester Country District Attorney’s Office to charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The former crime carries a maximum penalty of 20 years and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years, “which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed,” according to the press release. The defendants are,
Isaac Concepcion Aquino, a/k/a “Kaka”
Mario Diaz, a/k/a “Memin”
Tomas Guillen, a/k/a “Diddy”
Ronnie De Leon
Jose Argelis Diaz
Jhonatan Diaz, a/k/a “Nino”
Joandra Tejada Gonzalez