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Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney: Cuban Nationals Convicted in Credit Card Skimmer Case

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Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney's Office Press Release:

Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty E. McGuire announced four Cuban nationals, who traveled from Hialeah, Florida, to central Virginia, were convicted of using a credit card skimmer to steal thousands of dollars from numerous Louisa residents. Julio Marquez-Franco, Breisys Martinez, Yesenia Rodriguez-Lopez, and Braya Hernandez all pled guilty to fourteen felonies including six counts of credit card theft, six counts of credit card fraud, one count of credit card forgery and one count of conspiracy.

A credit card skimmer is a device that records the credit card number, along with other user information, from the magnetic strip on the back of credit cards. Designed to appear as a normal credit card reader, skimmers are difficult to detect when installed by experienced criminals. Skimmers are usually placed on credit card readers located outside and can be installed on a wide-variety of card readers, from gas pumps to automated teller machines.  The criminals who use skimmers target credit card machines that do not utilize chip readers.

In this case, the four defendants came to central Virginia where they set up a skimmer on a gas pump at a local convenience store. The defendants waited several days and then retrieved the device, now containing the stolen credit card information, and made counterfeit credit cards with a laptop and other equipment they hid in the ceiling of their motel.  These fake credit cards were extremely sophisticated, appearing to be legitimate cards issued in the defendants’ names.

Once the defendants’ had created numerous fake credit cards they began to make purchases at various large chain stores. The defendants’ would purchase normal electronics and household goods, items they would abandon in in the parking lot of these stores, in an effort to mask the purchase of several thousands of dollars of prepaid credit cards.  The prepaid cards were then taken back to Miami and sold for approximately 80 percent of face value.

Alert county residents, noticing fraudulent transactions on their credit card accounts, contacted their local community bank. Bank authorities, noting the common thread that all involved customers had purchased gas at a convenience store on specific dates, contacted the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office. Detective Todd Lytton was assigned to the case and tracked down the evidence to show the scheme and identify thousands of dollars in losses. 

Speaking on the case, Commonwealth’s Attorney McGuire said: “I encourage everyone who uses credit cards to practice vigilance when dealing with the use of their cards.  While technology is certainly making lives easier, it also makes it much easier for criminals to obtain personal information, create mountains of fraudulent credit card debt and drain bank accounts.  It is imperative that you report any unauthorized purchases on your credit or debit cards to the bank immediately, then follow up with your local sheriff’s department or other law enforcement agency. These four individuals, who scammed thousands of dollars, would not have been caught without the diligence of card holders in reporting the unauthorized transactions.”

Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Adam J. Ward, who prosecuted the case with McGuire, added: “This case was solved by old-fashioned police work.  Detective Lytton, with the support of the United States Secret Service and several Florida law enforcement agencies, did an outstanding job identifying the culprits, obtaining the evidence to make the case, and ensuring that Mr. Marquez-Franco, Mr. Hernandez, Ms. Martinez and Ms. Rodriguez-Lopez would not get away with this crime.”

The defendants were sentenced to a period of active incarceration based on their level of involvement in the conspiracy.  Upon release, they will be subject to supervised probation and will be required to repay the stolen money.