Stealing victims’ identities was the first step toward pilfering from their online banking accounts, according to a cyber bank fraud indictment announced Thursday.
Fourteen South Florida men and women were indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their alleged involvement in a scheme to gain online access to — and steal money from — the personal checking and savings accounts of about a dozen unsuspecting Bank of America customers. The alleged theft, totaling more than $100,000 occurred from November 2009 to June 25, 2010. Each of the stolen amounts was less than $10,000.
Bank of America spokeswoman Christina Beyer declined to comment on the indictment or the bank’s online safeguards.
Those charged were: Ibrahin Elias, 24, of Hialeah; Dalbert Hernandez, 22, of Miami; Victor Batista, 22, of Hialeah; Roger Lores, 23, of Hialeah; Aniuta Castro-Ruiz, 53, of Hialeah; Dayan Galarraga, 40, of Hialeah; Yanelis Curbera, 34, of Hialeah; Dalmis Gonzalez, 30, of Hialeah; Yoleisy Legarde, 29, of Miami; Howard Mitchell, 27, of Miami; Yovani Gonzalez, 26, of Miami; Idalma Chaskel Kessel, 45, of Hialeah; Maribel Perez, 23, of Hialeah; and Edisbel Rodriguez, 36, of Miami.
All were arrested Thursday except for Galarraga, who remains at large, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
According to prosecutors, Elias worked as the ringleader, gathering stolen personal identification information of unwitting bank customers, including names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers. He then allegedly used the information to impersonate bank customers and access their accounts through Bank of America’s website.
Once Elias had control of an account, he allegedly transferred funds to accomplices, who made their own accounts available to receive the stolen money. He also allegedly ordered checks which were used to drain victims’ accounts.
Elias is charged with one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud, 16 counts of substantive bank fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count for destruction of evidence.
The indictment also alleges that Hernandez and Batista received stolen funds and recruited others to participate in the scheme. Hernandez and Batista are both charged with conspiring to commit bank fraud, and Batista is charged with four counts of substantive bank fraud.
According to the charges, Lores, Castro-Ruiz, Galarraga, Curbera, and Dalmis Gonzalez all received stolen funds through electronic online transfers, and charged a fee for the service. Once they allegedly received the stolen funds, they and others made withdrawals from different locations and returned the bulk of the proceeds to their handlers. They are charged with conspiring to commit bank fraud and substantive bank fraud violations.
Finally, Legarde, Mitchell, Yovani Gonzalez, Kessel, Perez, and Rodriguez are alleged to have cashed stolen checks obtained through Elias’ online fraud. They are charged with conspiring to commit bank fraud and substantive bank fraud violations.
If convicted, the U.S. Attorney’s office said, each defendant charged with conspiracy and bank fraud violations faces a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Additionally, Elias faces mandatory consecutive two-year sentences for each conviction for aggravated identity theft, and a potential maximum sentence of 20 years for attempting to destroy evidence.