The third of three Cuban nationals who traveled across sixteen Iowa counties in 2017 and used at least fifty-four stolen identities and card numbers to make fraudulent purchases were sentenced to federal prison yesterday.
Liliany de Armas Mena, 21, resident of Kentucky, was sentenced to three years in prison after a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. Pedro Alvarez Rodriguez, age 36, and Dunieski Santana Moreno, age 27, residents of Florida, were both previously sentenced in April to 42 months and 40 months in federal prison, respectively, after guilty pleas to the same offenses.
“Identity theft plagues Americans and financial institutions across the country and has a real impact on people’s everyday lives,” said United States Attorney Peter Deegan. “We will continue working with our law enforcement partners to protect innocent Iowans from these schemes and hold the perpetrators accountable.”
“This sentencing sends a strong message to those who attempt to defraud honest citizens and businesses in our communities without consequences.” said Tracy J. Cormier, Special Agent in Charge of HSI St. Paul. “I am proud of the work done by HSI special agents and the Waverly Police Department during this investigation and commend their efforts to put these criminals out of business.”
According to plea agreements and other information presented in court, de Armas Mena, Alvarez Rodriguez, and Santana Moreno perpetrated an identity theft and credit card fraud spree across the state of Iowa, using counterfeit credit cards containing at least fifty-four “skimmed” account numbers of victims. They used these fake cards to purchase gift cards and gift card reloads at Wal-Mart stores.
The scheme was designed to evade detection by moving across county borders to stay ahead of authorities, using self-checkout registers to make their repetitive transactions with multiple victims’ cards, and using locally “skimmed” numbers of mostly Iowa victims. De Armas Mena, Alvarez Rodriguez, and Santana Moreno visited Wal-Mart stores in West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Grimes, Altoona, Ames, Boone, Denison, Sioux City, Le Mars, Sioux Center, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Mason City, Cedar Falls, and Waverly over the span of only four days in January and February 2017. Alvarez Rodriguez had previously been convicted in 2015 of attempted robbery in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, after another incident at a Wal-Mart involving counterfeit cards and stolen account numbers. Santana Moreno had previously been convicted in 2015 of financial transaction card theft in Sumter County, South Carolina.
De Armas Mena was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by Chief United States District Court Judge Leonard T. Strand to 36 months’ imprisonment and two years of supervised release to follow. All three have been ordered to make $5,655.08 in joint and several restitution to victims. There is no parole in the federal system.
In sentencing the defendants, Chief Judge Strand condemned the “extremely disturbing” crimes, commenting that the defendants were parasites motivated by greed, who made the decision over and over to steal and make their livings off others’ hard-earned money.
De Armas Mena is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until she can be transported to a federal prison.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lyndie M. Freeman and investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Waverly Police Department.
Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl.
The case file number is 17-CR-2044.