Four men - two of them from Florida and two from North Carolina - came to Alabama in March to commit financial crimes, according.
A federal grand jury in Birmingham this week issued two separate indictments accusing the suspects of traveling to the state to commit access device fraud, Acting U.S. Attorney Robert O. Posey, and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Michael Williams announced Friday.
A two-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges Alexander Acosta, 27, and Yester Luis Rodriguez Duque, 34, both of Florida, with conspiracy to use, possess and traffic in counterfeit and unauthorized access devices, and with possessing 15 or more of the fraudulent cards.
According to the indictment, Acosta and Duque traveled to Alabama in March to use counterfeit cards to obtain money, goods and services, and that Acosta used at least one of these cards at a Walmart in Vestavia Hills on March 15. At the time, they were in possession of 15 or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices.
In an unrelated case, the grand jury indicted Charles Antonio Rice, 27, and Hermes Chimaera-El, 35, with two counts of conspiracy to commit access device fraud in March. Additionally, Rice is charged with possessing device-making equipment on March 21. Both men are from North Carolina.
Authorities say Rice and Chimaera-El obtained counterfeit access devices encoded with their own names, but with account numbers belonging to Alabama residents. The pair came to north Alabama in order to use the fraudulent cards to obtain money, goods and services. Rice had an MSRX6 Bluetooth card encoder, according to the indictment.
The U.S. Secret Service investigated both cases in conjunction with its financial service investigator and the Jefferson County Regional Financial Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robin Beardsley Mark and Erica Williamson Barnes are prosecuting the cases.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to use, possess or traffic in unauthorized or counterfeit access devices is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for possessing 15 or more unauthorized or counterfeit access devices is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for possessing device-making equipment is 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"The two unrelated cases indicted this week are prime examples of financial crime frequently committed through the creation and use of fraudulent debit, credit and gift cards," Posey said in a prepared statement. "We are fortunate in the Birmingham Metro Area to have the Jefferson County Regional Financial Crimes Task Force, which brings local law enforcement in the county together with the U.S. Secret Service to quickly respond to and investigate these type of crimes."
"Technology has forever changed the way we do business, making every day financial transactions a prime target for fraud," Williams said, also in a statement . "The Secret Service, in conjunction with the Jefferson County Regional Financial Crimes Task Force, continues to successfully combat financial crimes in the metro area by adapting our investigative methodologies, and educating the general public."
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