Rezi recruited Eliot Pereira and Melissa Rios, below, who each in turn recruited others.
Defendant #1: Eliot Pereira, b.1993 – opened “Eliot Products & Arts, Inc.” and recruited and managed mules.
Defendant #2: Natalie Armona – opened “Armona Furniture Design Concept & Textile” and recruited and managed multiple mules and recruiters, including defendants #5, #8, #9, #10, and #12.
Defendant #3: Melissa Rios, b. 1996 – opened “Taihan Fiberoptics, Inc.” and recruited #2
Defendant #4: Bryant Ortega, b. 1996 – opened “Bryant Tech Deals” and recruited and managed multiple mules, including Defendant #7. (4631 West 9th Court, Hialeah, FL 33012)
Defendant #5: Angelo Santa Cruz, b. 1994 – opened “ASC Worldwide, Inc” and recruited and managed multiple mules, including Defendants #6 & #11.
Defendant #6: Alexis Fernandez Cruz, b. 1992 – opened “Alexis Universal, Inc.”
Defendant #7: Roberto Carlos Gracia, b. 1994 – opened RCG Deals, Inc.
Defendant #8: Jose E. Rivera, b. 1989 – opened Rivera Worldwide, Inc.
Defendant #9: Angeles De Jesus Angulo, b. 1996 – opened Angeles Premier Trades, Inc.
Defendant #10: Jennifer Ruiz, b. 1994 – opened Josette Quality, Inc.
Defendant #11: Yirielkys Pacheco Fernandez, b. 1984 – opened YF Nationwide, Inc.
Defendant #12: Sebastian Loayza, b. 1994 – opened Sure Trades, Inc.
This case starts off with a criminal complaint from the Miami office of the United States Secret Service.
It begins with his overview of the case, which is worth quoting here:
“Federal law enforcement agents have been investigating numerous business email compromise and spear phishing scams wherein various fraudsters targeted employees with access to company finances and tricked them into making wire transfers to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners — except in fact, the accounts were shell companies controlled by the fraudsters.
Different people played different roles in the scheme. Some of the co-conspirators hacked into and took control over certain victim companies’ business email accounts without the knowledge or consent of the true email account holders, or created email accounts similar to, but slightly different from, real business email accounts. Using the sham or compromised email accounts, the fraudsters then sent emails soliciting payments, claiming that funds were owed, and representing that payments for services rendered by the victim companies should be redirected to different accounts.
Other co-conspirators, known as money mules, opened shell companies and bank accounts into which the funds were fraudulently transferred, and then withdrew the fraud proceeds in cash, or wired the fraud proceeds into their foreign and domestic bank accounts. Several money mules progressed to recruiting and managing other mules.”
Natalie Armona may have been a good choice for Melissa to recruit based on her work. Here’s a Facebook post of hers from last year! But by the dates, she had been in the money mule business quite a while before landing this job as a Junior Processor at a lending firm.
Armona’s TD Bank account
The complaint begins by telling the story of Natalie ARMONA, who opened a business, Armona Furniture Design Concept & Textile Inc., incorporating the business in Florida using her home address and opening a business checking account at TD Bank. She was the sole signatory, and used her true social security number on the account. The account was opened on December 9, 2106 and received its first wire December 14, 2016, from a scammed medical center (Victim Company A). After taking out her commission in cash ($5,500) using her true Florida drivers license number as identity confirmation, Armona wired the rest of the money to “Flame Land International Limited” in Hong Kong.
On December 21, 2016, Armona’s TD Bank account received an ACH for $724,395. Armona again paid herself first, withdrawing $10,508 in person. Three wires went out. $288,301 to “Caplan Sp Zoo” in Warszawa, Poland. $194,110 to the same. $94,218 to “Baolifeng Intl Trading Limited” in Shenzhen, China. Armona paid herself twice more, once for $5,500 and once for $9400. On December 27, 2016, she dipped three more times, for $800, $3800, and $9900.
Armona’s SunTrust Bank account
On December 9, 2016, Armona Furniture opened a SunTrust Bank account. On December 30th she got an inbound ACH of $35,170 from a Pennsylvania sign company. Also on December 30th, she got an incoming wire from Kukutula Development Company LLC in Koloa, Hawaii in the amount of $59,850. On January 3, 2017, Armona withdrew $35,170. On January 13, 2017, SunTrust closed the account for fraud with a balance of $59,850.
A collaborating witness told the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force that he had been recruited by Armona and had opened a shell company in the name ASC WorldWide, with accounts at TD Bank and Suntrust Bank. Among other activities, he used email-based scams to cause $80,000 to be wired.
After a few successful jobs, the suspect said that Armona told him he could earn extra money by recruiting others into the scam. He agreed to allow the USSS to record his emails, phone calls, and any text or WhatsApp communications involving others in the scheme.
The Ortega Case
The same USSS agent who did Armona’s case also swore out the affidavit of criminal complaint against Bryant Ortega. Ortega opened a TD Bank account for his new corporation, Bryant Tech Deals, which matched his home address of 2160 NW 111 Avenue, Sunrise, Florida 33322. Bryant Tech Deals also opened a SunTrust account. Both accounts were opened on February 13, 2017 and on March 6, 2017 the SunTrust account received an inbound wire of $283,750.50. On March 7th, three withdrawals were made. $500 from an ATM, $5600 over-the-counter, and $8400, also over-the-counter. Ortega’s true Florida drivers license was shown as proof of identify for the in-person withdrawals. Also on March 7, 2017, $94,110 was wired to “Huge Elite Limited” in Shanghai, China. After paying himself three more times the following day ($400 ATM, $800 at the counter, and $6200 at the counter), another wire of $128,705 went to Huge Elite Limited. On March 9, 2017, an additional $33,000 was wired out to “Lofty Ease Limited” in Shanghai, China.
(Ortega was arrested Jan 25, 2018)
The Pereira Case
The third case, Feb 23, 2018, has an affidavit from Miami’s FBI office from an agent who previously served as a Computer Scientist in the Philadelphia office! Pereira ran several schemes against companies by impersonating their officers, including Fakhoury Law Group (Troy, Michigan), High Tech Lending (San Diego, California), Gaumer Company (Houston, Texas), Park Corporation (Cleveland, Ohio), and Zija International (Lehi, Utah.) Each of those companies received fraudulent emails, claiming to be from an executive of their own company, ordering that wires be sent to accounts controlled by “OS Fly Tech Incorporated.” Pereira hired an unnamed middle man to set up additional corporate accounts at Bank of America, Wells Fargo, SunTrust Bank, and Regions Bank. The Middleman says that Pereira was working with an unknown male who he called “Rezi.” This would be the same person that Cynthia Rodriguez was working for (see Operation Wire Wire: The South Florida Cases, Part 1) Roda Taher. Pereira and Rezi gave one of their mules an email email@example.com to use.
As shown above, nearly $1M in wires were sent to company accounts at Bank of America, SunTrust Bank, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank in September and October of 2016. Pereira and his middleman communicated through WhatsApp and Email. (954.554.5501 / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com )
The Big Picture
Roda Taher, AKA Ressi, AKA Rezi, was the manager and supervisor of a criminal organization in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere. He recruited all of the defendants in this case, encouraged them to open shell accounts and receive illegally transferred funds, some of which they directly wired to China, Poland, and elsewhere.
The case involves 30 distinct financial transactions:
|2||02SEP2016||Eliot Pereira||$89,630 from OS Fly Tech’s Wells Fargo account to China|
|3||30NOV2016||Melissa Rios||$13,844 from Tiahan Fiberoptics Inc’s TD Bank account to Huzhou Nanmei Textile|
|4||23DEC2016||Natalie Armona||$288,301 from Armona Furniture’s TD Bank account to Caplan Sp Zoo in Warszawa Poland|
|4||23DEC2016||Natalie Armona||$194,110 from Armona Furniture’s TD Bank account to Caplan Sp Zoo in Warszawa Poland|
|5||23DEC2016||Natalie Armona||$288,301 from Armona Furniture’s TD Bank account to Caplan Sp Zoo in Warszawa Poland|
|6||23DEC2016||Natalie Armona||$94,218 from Armona Furniture’s TD Bank account to Baolifeng Intl. Trading Limited in Shenzhen China|
|7||12JAN2017||Natalie Armona||$44,618 from Armona Furniture’s TD Bank account to Hangzhou Jieenda Textile Co Ltd in China|
|8||07MAR2017||Bryant Ortega||$94,110 from Bryant Tech Deal’s SunTrust account to Huge Elite Limited in Shanghai, China|
|9||08MAR2017||Bryant Ortega||$128,705 from Bryant Tech Deal’s SunTrust account to Huge Elite Limited in Shanghai, China|
|10||08MAR2017||Bryant Ortega||$6,200 from Bryant Tech Deal’s SunTrust account|
|11||28MAR2017||Bryant Ortega||$179,302 from Bryant Tech Deal’s SunTrust account to Lofty Ease Limited in Shanghai, China|
|12||14APR2017||Roberto Carlos Garcia||$3,500 from RCG Deals Inc’s Bank of America account|
|13||17APR2017||Roberto Carlos Garcia||$112,000 from RCG Deals Inc’s Bank of America account to KT and G Corp|
|14||17APR2017||Roberto Carlos Garcia||$7,000 from RCG Deals Inc’s Bank of America account|
|15||17APR2017||Roberto Carlos Garcia||$3,000 from RCG Deals Inc’s Bank of America account|
|16||28APR2017||Jennifer Ruiz||$39,841 from Josette Quality Inc’s TD Bank account to Huzhou Nanmei Textile Co. Ltd.|
|17||28APR2017||Jennifer Ruiz||$3,400 from Josette Quality Inc’s TD Bank account|
|18||04MAY2017||Roberto Carlos Garcia||$100 from RCG Deals Inc’s Bank of America account|
|19||26OCT2017||Angelo Santa Cruz||$88,950 from ASC Worldwide’s Chase Bank account to Niche Holding Ltd.|
|20||26OCT2017||Angelo Santa Cruz||$7,000 from ASC Worldwide’s Chase Bank account|
|21||01NOV2017||Alexis Fernandez Cruz||$8,600 from Alexis Universal Inc’s TD Bank account|
|22||07NOV2017||Angelo Santa Cruz||$96,500 from ASC Worldwide’s TD Bank account to Zhejiang Oudi Machine Co. Ltd.|
|23||07NOV2017||Angelo Santa Cruz||$8,500 from ASC Worldwide’s TD Bank account|
|24||09NOV2017||Alexis Fernandez Cruz||$8,500 from Alexis Universal Inc’s SunTrust Bank account|
|25||21NOV2017||Yirielkys Pacheco Fernandez||$34,810 from YF Nationwide Inc’s Chase Bank account to Nantong Gomaa International Co. Ltd.|
|26||06DEC2017||Yirielkys Pacheco Fernandez||$88,528 from YF Nationwide Inc’s Chase Bank account|
|27||30NOV2017||Jose E. Rivera||$54,210 from Rivera Worldwide Inc’s Bank of America account to Zhejiang Senhuang Trading in Zhejiang, China|
|28||30NOV2017||Jose E. Rivera||$6,100 from Rivera Worldwide Inc’s Bank of America account|
|29||03JAN2018||Angeles De Jesus Angulo||$79,400 from Angeles Premier Trades Inc’s Wells Fargo Bank account to Farstar International Ltd|
|30||03JAN2018||Angeles De Jesus Angulo||$8,600 from Angeles Premier Trades Inc’s Wells Fargo Bank account|
Altogether, this group is charged with laundering more than $5,000,000.
The case is scheduled to be heard in Jury Trial beginning on June 25, 2018 before Judge Marcia G. Cooke in Miami, Florida.
Tomorrow (June 13, 2018) two of the defendants are meeting to change their plea. Jennifer Ruiz and Yirielkys Pacheco Fernandez have decided they may not want the 20 year sentence that all of them are facing as part of a conspiracy to commit money laundering at this level!
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from CyberCrime & Doing Time authored by Gary Warner, UAB. Read the original post at: http://garwarner.blogspot.com/2018/06/operation-wire-wire-south-florida-cases_12.html