A member of an ID theft ring that stole more than $600,000 from customers at Michaels stores in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison on Thursday.
Jose “Tito” Salazar, age 45, of Riverside, CA was part of a crew that replaced card-reading terminals at the arts and crafts retailer with wireless imitations that they used to capture customers' bank account numbers and PINs, Acting US Attorney for New Jersey Rachael A. Honig said.
They then created copycat cards that were then used to withdraw more than $500,000 from hundreds of victims' bank accounts at various ATMs, she said.
The crew replaced 88 terminals with imitations in 80 different stores operated by Michaels across 19 states, a federal complaint on file in US District Court in Camden, NJ says.
A federal grand jury in Camden indicted Salazar in 2015. He remained a fugitive until September 2020, when he was captured in Mexico City.
Salazar was returned to the US via the Philadelphia International Airport this past January and has remained in federal custody ever since.
Rather than go to trial, he took a deal from the government, pleading guilty in April to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in exchange for leniency.
Salazar must serve out just about all of the sentence approved Thursday by US District Court Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez via videoconference in Camden. There's no parole in the federal prison system.
The judge also sentenced Salazar to five years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $617,534.94 in restitution.
One of Salazar's co-conspirators, Angel Angulo, also of Riverside, was sentenced in March 2018 to three years in federal prison after he admitted his role in the ring. Another, Crystal Banuelos was sentenced to time served and five years of probation.
Honig credited special agents of the US Secret Service field office in Philadelphia with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas and sentences.
She also thanked special agents with the US Marshal Service and the International Criminal Police Organization.
Handling the case for the government is Assistant US Attorney Jonathan Fayer of Honig’s Economic Crimes Unit.
- 58 stores in New York;
- 54 stores in Pennsylvania;
- 34 stores in New Jersey;
- 22 stores in Connecticut.
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