A man involved in a multi-state credit card fraud ring with a branch in Wake County involving more than 200 stolen credit card accounts will be spending 84 months behind bars, according to the Department of Justice.
Nelson Alvarez-Vasquez, 38, of Houston, Texas is the third person in a group of four arrested in Wake County to be convicted in the operation. He pled guilty to using unauthorized access devices and identity theft in March 2011. Last week, a federal court judge sentenced him to seven years in prison followed by three years supervised release.
The investigation began in March 2011 when a drug-sniffing dog detected a suspicious package at a UPS in Raleigh during a routine parcel check. The Wake County Sheriff’s Office then obtained a search warrant and found marijuana and a white controlled substance in the package. Soon after, sheriffs executed a search warrant on the residence where the package was delivered. Throughout the house they found equipment used to make copies of credit cards, blank stock credit cards, and more than $3,000 in US currency.
Investigators also found hundreds of RedBox DVD’s, many of them duplicates. According to the report, criminals who practice credit card fraud commonly test their fraudulent credit cards on RedBox dispensers before using the cards to make larger purchases at retail stores.
Alvarez-Vasquez was one of four people arrested at the residence. The others are: Michelle Benavidez, Stephany Abello, Julio Vidal. Benevidez has been sentenced with 30 months in prison, and Abello has been sentenced to 27 months in prison. Vidal is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
When the U.S. Secret Service conducted forensic testing on the computers and equipment that was seized, they discovered that more than 200 credit card numbers had been stolen and used by the group.
Alvarez-Vasquez was part of a credit card fraud ring based in Houston, Texas. The group purchased stolen credit card account numbers from various sources and, using their own device-making equipment, manufactured fraudulent credit cards. The group then used the cards to purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, often gift cards, which they then sold for profit. Prior to their arrest, the group traveled to various locations throughout the United States to engage in credit card fraud.
Last year in Wake County, there were 89 felony charges of financial card fraud, and 15 people were convicted of the crime, according to a report from the NC Administrative Office of Courts. That shows a decrease in the number of charges of financial card theft from 2009, when there were 180 charges, resulting in 26 people being convicted of financial card fraud.