By LeaAnne Klentzman
Interestingly, all of the suspects in this most recent bust were Cuban nationals, much like a similar bust in 2011. According to Sheriff Troy Nehls and the lead Investigator on this case Daniel Cardenas, members of the Electronic Crimes Task Force arrested nine men at four different locations across Fort Bend, Harris and Waller Counties. Cardenas said that originally two homes were targeted in Fort Bend and two in Harris County. However, as the day unfolded officers learned that one of the Harris county operations had recently been moved to a home in rural Waller County.
The Electronic Task Force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from The Secret Service, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), Houston Police Department (HPD), Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), and the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office (FBCSO), the Fort Bend District Attorney’s Office, and in this instance assisted by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). The raids were executed at two homes in the Mission Bend area of Fort Bend; one on Barbarossa and the other on Sierra Grande. Another two homes were targeted in Harris County; one on Green Crest Drive and one on Meadows Place Drive, however the Meadows Place Drive home is the operation that had been moved to a home in the 11400 block of Stefka Road near Hempstead in Waller County.
In total nine men were arrested in the sweep and face charges of Credit Card Fraud/Engaging in Organized Crime, Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, Theft and Money Laundering. Marvin Wright with the US Secret Service said all the hard work by all the agencies involved was what had made these seizures and arrests possible. George Ryan with DPS said for years the criminal element has been working together, now with law enforcement working together; it is the force multiplier necessary to make a difference.
Cardenas said the scope of this particular operation is large and spans across the US and into Mexico, as well as the Ukraine, Russia and Cuba. He said this ring is a prime example of someone living the high life on someone else’s dime. This kind of criminal operation is low risk with a very high reward however, Cardenas believes with these arrests law enforcement has made a dent into this group. He called what they had working a pretty sophisticated manufacturing operation that was funneling monies to countries throughout the globe. The data used to create these bogus credit and gift cards is mined from the internet by hackers and black market sales operations.
As a result of the raids officers recovered high end products that are believed to have been purchased with stolen monies. During the press conference some of the seized goods were displayed like numerous cartons of cigarettes; designer handbags, hundreds of blank credit and gift cards awaiting imprint and embossing. They also seized computers, memory devices, as well as machines that imprint, emboss and gather credit card information all used to defraud banks and credit and gift cards card holders.
Sheriff Nehls made the observation with that availability of this type of return, why would anyone rob a bank when you can sit in your own home, in your jammies, and commit financial fraud? He said it might seem like a good idea until the RAID trucks roll up and the ninja troops come running in.
The men arrested have been identified as 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 Harris County Jail and the other seven are in the Fort Bend County Jail.
Particular events of this case remain under investigation.