Five accused of credit card fraud

Maikel Valdes-Amaro, 30, Blanca Valero-Morejon, 38, Livan Tagle Moya, 39, Anna Lizeth Torres, 25, and Anet Valero-Morejon, 37, are facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, including fraudulent possession/use of identifying information.

June 24, 2011 4:04:52 PM PDT
They look legit, just like the credit card you may have in your purse or wallet. But investigators say hundreds of these cards are fake, and filled with other people's account information. It's a frightening thought that knowing someone out there may have a credit card with their own name on it which can drain your account. Investigators in Fort Bend County say it's been happening there, and the victims are from all over the country.

Ft. Bend Co. deputies say they found everything needed to turn blank credit cards into real ones loaded with stolen financial information.

Detectives say nearly 1,000 fake credit cards were embossed with the names of five suspects. Those suspects apparently used encoders to load the magnetic strips with allegedly stolen credit card information.

The Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office says in late April, investigators received a tip that the Cuban group -- most of whom were blood related -- had obtained the numbers through dump sites, likely from out of the country on the internet. Once the numbers were secured, new credit cards were produced.

"What these people were doing was they were actually manufacturing their own card, embossing the magnetic strip with whatever information they wanted. Typically they would change the name on the magnetic strip, leave the other information going to legitimate card holders so it hits there bill," said Chief Deputy Craig Brady.

On June 9, detectives obtained a search and arrest warrant for an address in the 15000 block of Prairie Oaks in the Mission Glen subdivision. In the residence, detectives say they found four separate rooms set up with embossing machines, re-encoding devices used to encode fraudulent information onto the new credit cards, and computers. About $8,000 in cash was seized along with flash drives and discs containing thousands of stolen credit card numbers and more than 900 re-encoded cards.

During the investigation, detectives learned the group also was involved in stealing diesel fuel with fraudulent cards. The purchases were made under $100 so the cards would not be flagged. The diesel then was sold at construction sites and trucking companies at a reduced price.

Two pickups seized contained modified fuel bladders located in the beds of the trucks and were not visible unless standing beside the pickups. The trucks were equipped with pumps, regulators and meters.

Detectives say Anet Valero-Morejon, 37, Blanca Valero-Morejon, 38, Maikel Valdes-Amaro, 30, Anna Lizeth Torres, 25, and Livan Tagle Moya, 39, got stolen credit card information online from hackers and used that information to make blank credit cards work just like real ones.

"They would take the cards and purchase gift cards and then they would sell the gift cards for a reduced value on the street," said Chief Brady. "This may go over a million dollars in damages to card companies and these individuals."

Detectives are not sure if there are any local victims, but say the stolen credit card information came from people around the country who may not even know their information is being used fraudulently. Officials say the only way for consumers to stop the crime is to catch it quickly.

"Check your statements. Even if you're not using your card, make sure you're aware that there could be interest being charged, a number of things. So just make sure you are opening your mail and staying in the loop," said Tanisha Warner of Money Management International.

The five suspects are all facing charges of engaging in organized criminal activity, including fraudulent possession/use of identifying information.

We're also told that federal investigators may be taking a look into this case.

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