FBI agents on Tuesday arrested eight cyber crime suspects in South Florida and Atlanta in their first take-down since a regional task force was formed to target the spreading threat of financial and other fraud on the Internet.
Launched by the FBI in January, the task force is taking aim at personal-identity thieves, computer hackers, credit card counterfeiters and other scammers.
“Today is the tip of the iceberg,” said John Jimenez, supervisor of the Miami Cyber Task Force, whose members come from local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies. “Massive arrests are expected.”
Jimenez, who formerly headed the FBI’s public-corruption task force, said the cyber squad is also working “hand in hand” with fraud investigators from South Florida banking and credit card companies to tackle the multibillion-dollar problem here and across the country.
Jimenez said the ultimate goal is to catch not only local cyber offenders but also ringleaders overseas — similar to the U.S. government’s longtime strategy of targeting major drug-traffickers in South America.
“We’re gearing up to go after the criminals at the front end,” he said.
On Tuesday, agents with the FBI’s cyber task force arrested six offenders, most of whom worked at AT&T call centers in Broward County. They are accused of stealing customers’ IDs and account information from corporate databases to commit cellphone insurance fraud, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Those arrested in two related cases are: Kenneth Key, 32, of Pompano Beach; Jonathan Mackey, 23, of Fort Lauderdale; Quenikka Brown, 28, of Atlanta; Kaleb Trotman, 25, of Pompano Beach; Tsafiq Samuels, 24, of Miramar; and Tanya Morgan, 27, of Miami Gardens.
According to a pair of indictments, five former AT&T call center workers are charged with conspiring to sell the stolen customer information to co-conspirators, including Trotman. He and others allegedly used the information to impersonate AT&T customers and submit fraudulent cellphone insurance claims.
The indictments also charge the defendants with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
In a third case, Richard Garcia Diaz, 50, of Hialeah, is charged with stealing thousands of cable boxes and modems and then illegally modifying them to receive free service.
A criminal complaint alleges that thousands of cable boxes and modems were ordered from Comcast with similar names and identity information for delivery to addresses in or around Coral Way in Miami.
FBI agents discovered that an unidentified co-conspirator, a UPS driver, delivered Comcast packages loaded with cable boxes and modems to an unnamed co-conspirator’s residence in Miami, according to the complaint. And that person gave the equipment to Garcia, the defendant.
In a fourth case, Ricardo Prieto, 49, of Miami, was charged with selling and using counterfeit credit cards.
The Miami Cyber Task Force consists of officers with the Miami Police Department, Miami-Dade Police Department, Hialeah Police Department, Bal Barbour Police Department, Davie Police Department, the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
Among other agencies planning to participate in the task force are the Miami Beach Police Department, the Doral Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.