By Tamas Mondovics
Two co-conspirators in a wire fraud and aggravated identity theft conspiracy involving credit card skimmers were sentenced by the Honorable Leon Jordan, U.S. District Judge, earlier this month to serve time in federal prison. According law enforcement officials, Ricardo Viera, 49, of Homestead, Florida, was sentenced, to serve a total of 40 months. Luis Raul Hernandez-Ugando, 37, of Coral Gables, Florida, was sentenced to serve a total of 48 months. TBI officials reported that in May 2018, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando each pleaded guilty to three counts of an August 2017 federal indictment. Details of the scheme are currently outlined in the plea agreements on file with the U.S. District Court.
According to these plea agreements, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando, installed “skimmers” on gas pumps at various gas stations in northeast Tennessee to steal hundreds of credit card and debit card account numbers. The report said that the men then re-encoded that stolen account information on gift cards, effectively changing the gift cards into stolen credit cards. After re-encoding the gift cards with the stolen credit card and debit card account information, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando used the newly encoded cards to make purchases at various retail outlets in Greeneville, Johnson City, Kingsport, Morristown, Elizabethton, and Rogersville, Tennessee and elsewhere.
Viera and Ugando also admitted to engaging in these same schemes in other states throughout the country, including Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska, and Minnesota.
On July 10, 2017, police approached Viera and Hernandez-Ugando while they were swiping unlawfully re-encoded credit cards at a Walmart in Kingsport, Tennessee. Officers arrested Viera, who was in possession of numerous re-encoded credit cards. Hernandez-Ugando was also arrested after a pursuit.
Upon their release from prison, each will be supervised by U.S. Probation for three years, officials said adding that additionally, both Viera and Hernandez-Ugando were ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1943.76.Federal investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and Kingsport Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney TJ Harker represented the United States in court proceedings.