LAS VEGAS -- Federal grand jury indictments unsealed Tuesday in Las Vegas named 13 Californians who were charged with conspiracy and aggravated identity theft for allegedly stealing information from bank credit/debit card readers and automated teller machines and using the information to manufacture counterfeit cards, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said today.
"We are working vigilantly with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to identify, arrest and prosecute criminals who are stealing personal information and using it to manufacture counterfeit credit and debit cards," Bogden said. "If you are involved in this type of criminal activity and are convicted, you are going to federal prison."
The defendants, all ranging in age from 21 to 44, are charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of aggravated identity theft. The indictment was returned by the grand jury on March 13 but was sealed until Tuesday to permit law enforcement authorities to make arrests. Six defendants were arrested Tuesday in California, five were already in state custody on other charges, and two have not yet been arrested.
Initial appearances will be scheduled in Las Vegas in the near future. If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and a minimum of four years in prison on the identity theft charges, to be served consecutively to any other term of imprisonment.
According to the indictment, from November 2009 through last Nov. 4, the defendants allegedly installed devices in the internal electronics of exterior door readers at Las Vegas area banks. Exterior door readers allow customers after-hours access to the bank's ATM inside a vestibule. Customers swipe their debit or credit cards in the reader to release the lock. The devices captured data of the account holders including full account numbers, names, and card expiration dates.
The defendants also allegedly installed pinhole cameras on the ATM pin pad, which were used to capture a customer's ATM personal identification number. The defendants then used the information to manufacture counterfeit credit cards, which they used for their own gain. The indictment states that the readers were installed at a number of Chase Bank branches in Las Vegas. The indictment does not specify the estimated loss to the bank.
This case is being investigated by the United States Secret Service and Metro Police, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn.