Penalties in a global cell phone fraud scheme continue to mount as a fifth defendant has pleaded guilty in connection to the case. Braulio De la Cruz Vasquez, a 54-year-old former resident of West Palm Beach, Fla., entered pleas in the Southern District of Florida.
De la Cruz pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, the use, production or possession of modified telecommunications instruments and the use or possession of hardware or software configured to obtain telecommunications services.
According to the US Department of Justice, the scheme involved stealing access to existing cell phone accounts, then fraudulently opening new accounts based on the information. In his admission of guilt, De la Cruz said that thousands of international calls would be routed via the internet to his residence, where phones programmed with the fraudulent accounts would be used to place the calls to countries such as Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, while the charges were billed to the original customers' accounts.
De la Cruz received amounts in the tens of thousands of dollars from VoIP companies for routing the calls. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2019; others in the case have already received sentences of 36 to 75 months for their roles in the scheme.
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