The leader of a multi-state ring accused of defrauding retailers, car dealerships, banks, and other financial institutions of more than 1.3 million dollars has pleaded guilty. The ring allegedly used identities created using stolen personal information bought on the dark web to defraud businesses in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
On September, 19 28-year-old Octavio Andres Difo-Castro, from Brooklyn, New York appeared before Judge John J. McConnell, Jr. in the Providence U.S. District court and disclosed how his fraud and identity theft ring operated. He told the court that he began by creating identity documents such as drivers’ licenses using stolen credentials he purchased on the dark web. He then recruited individuals and directed them to open bank accounts using the fraudulent IDs, after which they applied for financing to purchase cars, clothing, and electronic devices.
Difo-Castro also admitted his co-conspirators deposited and withdrew fraudulently acquired funds and presented themselves as sellers and buyers of vehicles to acquire fraudulent financing from banks or credit unions. They also used the forged IDs to obtain retail store credit and make purchases from clothing and electronics retailers.
The prosecution provided evidence that showed that Difo-Castro’s ring defrauded $899,666, $177,341 and $14,067 of banks and credit unions, electronic devices retailers and clothing retailers respectively.
Investigations that resulted in the arrest of Difo-Castro and eight others were led by the U.S Secret Service assisted by the Social Security Administration. The United States Postal Inspection Service and Police Departments in the affected states. Difo-Castro and a few of his co-conspirators were arrested on August 9, 2018, while others were arrested in late 2017 and early 2019 as the investigations continued.
￼Some of the arrested suspects have already pleaded guilty and sentenced while others are waiting for the sentencing trial. They include:
- 25-year-old Reynaldo Martinez from Providence who pleaded guilty in 2017 to several counts of charges related to identity theft and fraud charges. He was jailed for 48 months and ordered to pay $38,126.62 in restitution to the businesses he defrauded.
- 37-year-old Jason McDonald from Attleboro, MA admitted guilt in March 2018 and was sentenced to 39 months in federal prison.
- 33-year-old Donald A. Wicklund from Pawtucket who pleaded guilty in April 2018 was sentenced to 24 months and one day in federal prison.
- 28-year-old Patricia Peralta from Paterson N. J., pleaded guilty in August 2019 and will be sentenced on January 9, 2020.
Some of the other suspects in the case such as 47-year-old Yenesia Pujols from Providence and 51-year-old Angel L. Morales from Bronx, New York both arrested in early 2019 are awaiting trial. An arrest warrant for the tenth suspect in the case 45-year-old Israel Arana Ruiz Velasco whose address is unknown was issued.
According to an announcement made by United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman and representatives of the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation Difo-Castro pleaded guilty to:
- One count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud
- One count of conspiracy to access device fraud
- Two counts of aggravated theft
- Nineteen counts of wire fraud.
He will be sentenced on January 13, 2020.