US Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announces that Jose Ojeda Vera, 28, formerly of Tampa, Florida, has pleaded guilty to committing aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit credit card fraud and identity theft. Vera faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison on the conspiracy charge, followed by two years in federal prison for the aggravated identity theft charge. Vera, who was indicted on Aug. 27, 2015, was first arrested on these charges on Oct. 13, 2015, and released on bond. He violated his pretrial release in January 2016 and was a fugitive until his arrest on March 2. According to court documents, Vera and his co-defendant, Yannier Arias, used a total of 45 counterfeit and unauthorized credit cards encoded and embossed with account information that had been obtained by, among other things, “skimming” credit cards at local gas stations. They used this stolen information to purchase merchandise at local merchants.
Many of the victims were unaware their information had been stolen until they were notified by law enforcement. On Feb. 24, 2015, Vera and Arias had 18 counterfeit credit cards in their possession, all in the name “Angel Garcia,” along with two fraudulent Florida identification cards in the same name. One ID card had Vera’s photograph on it, and the other depicted Arias. The pair had made more than $6,300 in fraudulent charges two days before. Agents also later recovered two more counterfeit credit cards from Vera’s home, along with receipts for purchases made with those cards. On Sept. 6, 2016, Arias was sentenced to eight years and six months in federal prison. He later unsuccessfully appealed that sentence. This case was investigated by the Financial Crimes Task Force, which includes the US Secret Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. [Source: Tampa Bay Reporter]