Feds detail counterfeit credit card operation busted in McAllen
MCALLEN, Jan 19, 2013 (The Monitor - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A $27,000 wire transfer to Mexico, nearly $400,000 in cash suspected stolen and an alleged ring leader on the run are the elements of a counterfeit credit card operation foiled by authorities this week.
The three Mexican men involved each face charges of fraud and possessing at least 15 devices used for counterfeiting, according to federal court documents filed Thursday.
McAllen police Wednesday arrested Pedro Carillo Torres, 24, and Jose Luis Cardenas, 24. The third suspect, Jose Roberto Garza Alfaro, was identified by Cardenas as the leader of the group when he spoke to authorities after being arrested, according to the court documents.
Cardenas also told authorities that Garza knew how to create the cards and promised him 12.5 percent of the proceeds. He said they came to the U.S. with him and settled in a McAllen Best Western hotel to create the fake cards. From there, the trio went on to empty several area ATMs and used the fake cards -- loaded with account numbers along with PINs -- at Inter National Bank and BBVA.
In their hotel room, paid for by Garza and reserved with his Mexican ID, authorities saw in plain view what turned out to be $208,000 in cash within several suitcases, deposit slips from Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo that totaled $180,000, more than 900 fake cards, two laptops, an embossing machine, a card re-encoder, an external hard drive and cell phones.
Law enforcement was led to the hotel room after they found Torres in possession of 21 fake white plastic cards, $2,400 in cash and several bank deposit slips at a McAllen ATM. According to police and the court documents, he was found driving a Mercury Mountaineer believed to belong to Garza. The car had been seen in ATM surveillance photos along with a white sedan.
Garza was also seen in surveillance photos with Torres at the ATMs.
After he was arrested, Torres said he bought 50 counterfeit cards for $1,250 in Mexico and identified Cardenas.
The investigation began Monday when theInter National Bank's own investigators contacted McAllen police about a number of suspicious ATM withdrawals that eventually totaled $250,000 over the course of five days.
On Tuesday, which was also when the money transfer to Mexico was made, bank investigators gave police a report along with a white plastic card that had a Regions Bank account number.
The card was seized by one of the ATMs when it was emptied, the documents state.
The U.S. Secret Service also became involved in the investigation that same day. No federal court date for Torres or Cardenas had been set Friday evening.
Jacqueline Armendariz covers law enforcement, courts and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (956) 683-4434.
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