Mastermind of Online Counterfeit Card Retail Shop Pleads Guilty
NEWARK, NJ—The mastermind of a one-stop online shop selling counterfeit payment cards and holographic overlays used by criminals to create fake driver’s licenses admitted today to running the fakeplastic.net website, which was responsible for an estimated $30 million in fraud, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Sean Roberson, 39, of Palm Bay, Florida, pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark, III in Newark federal court, to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with authentication features.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The fakeplastic.net website was a one-stop online shop operated by Roberson and used by criminals across the country to purchase customized counterfeit credit and debit cards used for unauthorized transactions with stolen payment card data, and holographic overlays used to make fake driver’s licenses.
During his guilty plea proceeding, Roberson admitted he began selling counterfeit cards and related items as early as April 2011 and launched the fakeplastic website in June 2012. Roberson owned and operated the website with the assistance of Vinicio Gonzalez and Hugo Rebaza. Roberson admitted that he and his conspirators fulfilled orders for approximately 69,000 counterfeit payment cards, more than 35,000 holographic stickers used to make counterfeit cards appear more legitimate and more than 30,000 state identification card holographic overlays. The orders—more than 3,600 parcels—were shipped through the U.S. mail.
Law enforcement estimates the losses associated with just the counterfeit payment cards trafficked by Roberson and his conspirators at more than $30 million. During his guilty plea, Roberson admitted he personally made more than $1.7 million from the scheme.
The fakeplastic website was used by various groups of criminals across the country often referred to as “carding” or “cash out” crews. These crews bought stolen payment card numbers and related information—referred to as “track data” or “dumps”—which typically appear on the magnetic stripe on the back of legitimate payment cards. Illegal vendors of that information usually get it through hacking or skimming operations involving the installation of specialized equipment at ATM locations or point-of-sale terminals. The stolen data was ultimately put on a counterfeit payment cards, purchased from Roberson, and used to make unauthorized transactions.
Both Gonzalez and Rebaza have pleaded guilty to charges in the Western District of North Carolina relating to their activity in connection with the website.
The conspiracy to commit wire fraud count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with authentication features count carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. A date for sentencing has not yet been determined.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark; and inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates for the investigation leading to Roberson’s guilty plea.
The Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina have been partners in the prosecution.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Pak of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section and Barbara Ward of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and money laundering unit.