Two homes in Fort Bend County and two in Harris County were originally targeted. Agents learned Friday morning that one of the Harris County homes had been abandoned by suspects, who relocated to the Waller County site.
"You're looking at several hundred victims," Det. Matthew Cardenas with the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office said. "The loss about could easily exceed several hundred thousand dollars."
The arrests were the result of a investigation targeting identity theft and credit card fraud. The suspects arrested allegedly obtained identities online and produced hundreds of illegal credit cards used to purchase goods and garner cash.
Det. Cardenas said, "In most cases they're bought online, essentially cloned onto other counterfeit cards, then used all over the place."
All the suspects were Cuban nationals and are tied to a group of Cuban nationals arrested in 2011 by Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office following an investigation that produced nine arrests.
Items confiscated in Friday's raids included hundreds of cards, many of them blank and ready to have identifications and information applied to them. Along with the cards, investigators found embossing machines, re-encoding devices used to encode fraudulent information, and computers. Machines used to place foil coating on card numbers also were confiscated. In addition to equipment, more than $13,000 in cash and two vehicles were confiscated in the raids.
George Ryan with the Texas Department of Public Safety said, "This should be a notice, to any and all criminal organizations that are involved in criminal activity in our communities."
Agents hit two addresses in Fort Bend County, including one in the 15200 block of Barbarossa Drive and one in the 15900 block of Sierra Grande Drive, both in the Mission Bend subdivision.
During the raid on Barbarossa, agents spotted one of the suspects driving by and, after a short chase, arrested that individual.
Agents also hit a home in the 4000 block of Green Crest Drive in Harris County, but the second address, one on Meadows Place Drive, was vacant. However, the search quickly moved to a residence in the 11400 block of Stefka Road near Hempstead in Waller County. With the assistance of Waller County Sheriff's Office, task force members raided that home and produced two arrests as well as equipment.
During the raids, nine suspects, all male, were arrested. They face charges of credit card fraud/engaging in organized crime, fraudulent use/possession of identifying information, theft and money laundering.
Those arrested include: Fernando Castellanos, 46, Manuel Cisneros-Castillo, 43, Alfredo Castillo-Lorente, 37, Osdanay Gascon, Sergio Hevia, Tomaini Rodriguez, 41, Eduardo Tamayo Cid, 27, Maikel Daniel Ocampo Yanes, 29, and Osvaldo Paz, 47. Gascon and Hevia were taken to the the Harris County Jail and all others are in the Fort Bend County Jail. The suspects in the Fort Bend County Jail each face a $400,000 bond.
The investigation is ongoing.
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