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Source: US State of California

Defendants used skimming devices and covert cameras to steal bank and credit union customers’ ATM card numbers and PINs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley sentenced Luis Jose Ruiz Gainza, 45, to four and a half years in prison for an identity theft scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, in 2017, Gainza, a Venezuelan national residing in Mexico, traveled to and from the United States for the purpose of stealing bank customers’ account information. During the course of the four-month scheme, at least six times Gainza and his co-conspirators placed skimming devices in ATMs and installed covert cameras to record ATM users’ personal identification numbers. While the skimmers were in place, hundreds of bank customers used the ATMs. Gainza and his co‑conspirators used the stolen account information to create fraudulent credit and debit cards and make unauthorized charges.

On August 5, 2017, Gainza and co-defendant Ricardo Gabriele-Plage, 39, of Venezuela, were arrested in their hotel room in Rancho Cordova. During a search of their room, law enforcement found a magnetic stripe reader and encoder, skimmers, covert cameras, and tools used to repair skimmers and install the devices in ATMs.

This case is the product of an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Fogerty is prosecuting the case.

Gabriele-Plage pleaded guilty to offenses arising from the same identity theft scheme. He will be sentenced by Judge Nunley on Jan. 9, 2020. He faces the following maximum penalties: five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy to possess unauthorized access devices count; 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the access device fraud count; and a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft charges. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.