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Public safety

Tampa man gets nearly 6 years for running credit card fraud ring

A Tampa man was sentenced Monday to five years and 10 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Lazaro Hernandez-Cabrales, 31, also must pay back $19,010.26 that he is accused of stealing.

Hernandez-Cabrales and Ricardo Romero-Mesa used stolen credit and debit card accounts to generate counterfeit credit cards, which they would use to buy hundreds of Visa gift cards, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They would use the gift cards to buy items at home improvement stores and then return those items for cash.

Hernandez-Cabrales and Romero-Mesa bought the stolen account numbers, many of which came from Navy Federal Credit Union and Armed Forces Bank, from a website in Eastern Europe. The men also installed skimmers at gas pumps to steal account numbers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

When searching a home shared by the men, investigators found 200 gift cards, credit cards and hotel room keys, which were re-encoded with credit and debit card account numbers. Agents also found computers, receipts for returns, high-end purses and clothing, and receipts for wire transfers to Ukraine. The men wired more than $23,545 to Ukraine and Russia for at least 800 stolen account numbers, investigators said. When Hernandez-Cabrales was arrested in August, authorities found credit cards, a gas pump key and a credit card re-encoder in his home.

Romero-Mesa pleaded guilty to his role in the case on Jan. 14 and has yet to be sentenced.

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