They announced charges against 50 individuals in three separate indictments. One indictment of 39 defendants (with 16 of those individuals yet to be arrested, eleven of which are still listed as John Does), another indictment charging seven individuals, and a third indictment charging four individuals.
Arrested in the operation are people in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and West Virginia. During the search warrants executed on March 16 counterfeit credit card manufacturing equipment, electronic media, and even an ATM machine were seized. All three indictments were unsealed in Las Vegas.
Five of the arrests were in Las Vegas, including:
Michael Lofton, 34
David Ray Camez, 20
Thomas Lamb, 47
Jonathan Vergnetti, 40
All of the defendants were said to be "members, associates, or employees" of a criminal organization called "Carder.su" where "su" refers to the old Internet Top Level Domain for "Soviet Union."
Carder.su has been around since at least late 2007, originally registered to "Maria A Ageeva, firstname.lastname@example.org" and for some time using the gmail account "email@example.com".
To join Carder.su, criminals had to be "vouched" into the forum by two existing members. The site is no longer active, with members being sent to the newer sites run by the same admin, crdrsu.su and carder.pro.
Carder.pro receives an average of 777 visitors per day, 372 from the United States, 218 from Russia, and 23 from Albania. (source: Alexa.com) (Carder.pro has been live for about 14 months, registered by Maria A Ageeva, firstname.lastname@example.org.) To join Carder.pro, members must pay a fee of 33 "Liberty Reserve" or "WebMoney" dollars.
Jonathan Edward Vergnetti
While we wait for the names of other "Open Market" criminals to be released, I thought it might be interesting to look at one of those named so far who has plenty of familiarity with Identity Theft, Carding, and the Legal System, Jonathan Vergnetti. Often in the case of these type of law enforcement "Operations" the operation combines recent arrests that clearly are related. In the case we'll examine today, the arrest actually occurred in June of 2010, but the new information is that the previously undisclosed "internet" source of Vergnetti's credit card information is now known to be the Carder.su website.
Making False Statement to Law Enforcement
Jonathan Edward Vergnetti first shows up in the federal courts system after being arrested along with Gabriella Jiminez, Robert Albert Zabala, and Barbra Jo Van Horn back in June of 2010 in the Northern District of Oklahoma.
Jonathan and his friends apparently vacated a Best Western Hotel in Grove, Oklahoma in a hurry and forgot to take with them a shoe box full of credit cards and papers containing lists of other credit card numbers. The hotel manager contacted the Grove, Oklahoma Police Department, and detectives from the GPD did a good job of tracking down people who had worked with Vergnetti. They found six individuals who had been provided with fake credit cards that Vergnetti had created for them, and were encouraged to use the cards to obtain cash in exchange for which they would provide Vergnetti a 60% share of whatever they got. They determined the hotel rooms Vergnetti and his ring were currently operating out of and hit them with search warrants, recovering a laptop computer, equipment for embossing credit cards (printing the names and numbers on them) and writing the magnetic stripes, as well as "a significant number" of identification cards and drivers licenses.
Oklahoma filed state charges on six individuals, but were given false identities for the four featured in this charge. They claimed to be (and presented matching identification cards) David Washington, Mehrdad Maknouni, Susan Lee Nuveman, and Barbara Jo Jeffries. Oklahoma submitted their fingerprints to CJIS and were able to learn the real identities as a result of the fingerprint matches. The four were questioned individually with three refusing to talk, but Barbara Jeffries (later found to be Barbra Jo Van Horn) cooperated and claimed that Vergnetti was the head of a criminal organization consisting of "40 to 50 people" in Oklahoma, California, and Nevada for which he provided credit cards and identities using data he received from "an internet chat room". The group mostly used these identities to obtain cash advances from casinos, including casinos in Las Vegas, but also numerous Indian casinos, including those in Oklahoma.
(see Vergnetti False Statement Criminal Complaint)
Vergnetti's First Grand Jury
Although making false statements to an arresting officer was enough to get Vergnetti into the federal system, by the time the Grand Jury was assembled July 8, 2010, there were better charges to bring. In addition to Vergnetti, Jiminez, Zabala, and Van Horn, Joseph Elijah Johnson and Cree Frances Clapper, both in their early twenties, were charged with this Original Indictment.
The charges were:
18 USC § 371 - Conspiracy
18 USC § 1029(a)(4)
and 18 USC §§ 1029(c)(1)(A)(ii) - Possession of Device Making Equipment
18 USC § 2(a) - Aiding and Abetting
18 USC §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2) - Felon in Possession of Firearm (Jiminez)
18 USC §§ 113(a)(5), 1151 and 1152 - Simple Assault in Indian Country (Vergnetti)
18 USC §§ 1028(a)(7), 1028(c)(1), 1028(b)(1)(A)(i) - Identity Theft
The indictment says that the gang would obtain pre-paid debit cards and then replace the magnetic stripe information with information that he burned on with his card writing information. He also could emboss names and numbers and the cards, and create matching identification documents in order to withdraw funds from casinos.
Some examples -
May 18, 2010, Vergnetti used a Nevada driver's license with his photo and the name "Berry Decker" at the River Spirit Casino in Tulsa to obtain a cash advance.
At the same casino on the same day, he also used a California driver's license in the name "Stephen Graham" and presented it to law enforcement to avoid revealing his identity.
After the original indictment, which was enough to move procedings forward, a Superseding Indictment was filed on August 3, 2010, which brought sixty additional charges, mostly related to additional detective work to identify some of the particular frauds that were committed by the gang of six.
So, for example, on June 4th, 6th, and 8th, Vergnetti did transactions on cards belonging to Mario Chacon and Kimberly McGee - $1263.99, $1263.99, $1075.00, $1048.99, $1048.99, and $1075.00.
Jiminez used an account belonging to Brandon Walser to do cash advances on June 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th in the amounts of $1505, $2079.99, $2079.99, $2150, $2050, $2079.99, $2050, $2460, $1540, and $1030.
Van Horn used an account belonging to Hector Ramirez to advance 1540 on June 8th.
Clapper used an account belonging to Floyd Farmer to advance 1612.50, 1540, and 1540 on June 6th and 7th.
Johnson used accounts belonging to Ernest Richmond, Amber Beck, and Hermon Galloway to advance $1080, $1620, $2079, $1048.99, $1048.99, $1540, $1540, $1080 on June 1st, 6th, 7th, and 8th.
Zabala used an account belonging to Phillip Carney to take $500 out on June 11th.
All of those charges are the results of looking at TEN DAYS worth of transactions in Oklahoma by this gang.
The Plea Agreement
Vergnetti decided with the information against him, he would plea out. He agreed to provide $107,235.74 in restitution and the prosecution agreed to drop all but two of the charges. The Plea lists who he has to pay restitution to as part of the bargain:
Bank of America - $9235.89
Bank of Commerce - $1554.80
Bank of Hawaii - $5064.98
Bank of Oklahoma - $9010.54
Charles Schwabb Bank - $4288.99
Community Bank of the Arbuckles - $1277.99
Cosden Federal Credit Union - $1075.00
Discover Card Services - $1801.42
First Hawaiian Bank - $1044.99
JP Morgan Chase Bank - $15,948.66
Merrill Lynch - $3183.99
Mountain American Federal Credit Union - $5872.76
RBS Citizens - $5746.47
Regions Bank - $33,475.15
TCM Bank - $1075.00
USAA Savings Bank - $5065.00
Village Bank - $1170.81
Zions First National Bank - $1342.00
Here's his actual "plea":
I, Jonathan Edward Vergnetti, admit that from Spring 2010, through June 8, 2010, I conspired and agreed with my named co-conspirators to possess device making equipment, to produce and use counterfeit access devices with the intent to defraud, and to possess and use the means of identification of other persons.
Generally, my named co-conspirators and I manufactured, possessed, and used counterfeit access devices. We obtained pre-paid debit cards from retail stores, and then frauduntely imprinted the electronic banking information of other persons onto the pre-paid debit cards without the knowledge of the true account holders. We obtained the banking information through a third party source over the internet. We embossed the characters of account numbers and names on the face of the fraudulent access devices. We then used the counterfeit access devices, along with false identification documents, to obtain cash advances at tribal gaming establishments and for other purchases. This conspiracy and the overt acts in the conspiracy occurred in the Northern District of Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Specifically, in order to carry out the objects of the conspiracy and to commit aggravated identity thieft, I admit that on June 6, 2010, I knowingly possessed and used a counterfeit access device that was a means of identification of another indivual to fraudulently obtain a cash advance in the amount of $1048.99 from the Grand Lake Casino located in the Northern District of Oklahoma, and the use of the counterfeit access device affected interstate commerce.
Having the plea agreement all lined up that basically said, "pay back the money and we'll only charge you with Conspiracy and Aggravated Identity Theft" on January 31, 2011 Judge James H. Payne, Northern District of Oklahoma, sentenced Jonathan Edward Vergnetti to pay $114,931.74 in restitution (garnishing wages at 50% of income while in prison and 10% of income after prison) until paid. The sentence called for imprisonment of 84 months, which were 60 months for the Conspiracy, and 24 months for the Aggravated Identity theft, which were to run Consecutively.
According to the Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator Service, Jonathan Edward Vergnetti, Register # 10908-062, a 40 year old white male, is scheduled to be released on July 14, 2016 and is currently held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc, California (175 miles northwest of Los Angeles, adjacent to Vandenberg Air Force Base.)