Miami-Dade Circuit Court is charging 13 Florida residents with fraud-related charges after law enforcement agents bust a fake credit card factory in Hialeah that federal prosecutors believe is the foundation of a nationwide scam.
Jaime Fernandez Del Pino of Miami reportedly ran the factory together with Julio Arjona Gomez of Miami Gardens. Both men were charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud. An accomplice identified as Dayan Borges of Doral faces similar charges.
Eight other Miami residents face fraud charges in connection to the case: Osvaldo Rodriguez, 48; Isobam Valdes, 41; Arian Linares, 34; Jose Ruiz-Diaz, 30; Mara Espinosa, 32; Michael Eliseo Perez, 32; Olivia Lopez, 33; and Juan Carlos Leiva, 48. Two others, Alexis Suarez Hernandez, 25, and Annarys Diaz Lopez, 33, of Orlando were charged with possession of credit card making equipment and use of a scanning device to defraud.
The investigation that led to the arrests was jointly run by the U.S. Secret Service and the Organized Crime Section of the Miami-Dade Police Economic Crimes Bureau. It culminated with the execution of 15 search warrants in Hialeah, West Palm Beach, Orlando, and Colorado Springs between November 13 and 17.
According to federal prosecutors, investigators discovered that credit card numbers stolen from all around the nation via gas station skimming devices or websites were used to make fake credit cards in South Florida. They traced the cards back to a one-bedroom condominium at 1095 West 77th Street in Hialeah.
Fernandez Del Pino and Arjona Gomez allegedly manufactured the fake cards from the condo and distributed them across the nation. In reference to the room the two men purportedly used to make the fake cards, the criminal complaint states:
“Law enforcement officers found a room dedicated to the manufacture of counterfeit credit cards. In particular, this room contained thousands of counterfeit credit cards, over 50,000 blank credit card plastics, several credit card printers, a magnetic strip encoder, modified gasoline pump skimmer devices, computers, and electronic media storage devices such as USB flash drives. A cursory search of three USB flash drives revealed that they contained various text files created between May and June of 2017 which contained over 50 stolen credit card account numbers.”
From the 15 location federal agents searched, the Justice Department seized nine vehicles, including a Mercedes-Benz and a Range Rover; high-end jewelry valued at over $100,000; $95,000 in cash; 70 cannabis plants; and 27 pounds of packaged marijuana.
The asset forfeiture laws the Justice Department used originated from the 1970s as a way for law enforcement agents to fight drug trafficking by diminishing the operations of large-scale trafficking operations. The laws have become a lucrative revenue stream for law enforcement agencies. The total amount of assets seized has risen from $94 million in 1986 to $4.5 billion in 2014.
The broad scope of forfeiture laws makes them easy to abuse. In some cases, the targets are completely innocent people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The amount seized from such individuals is often so low that it just isn’t worth hiring an attorney to get the property back.