Updated August 17th, 2021
New York man uses phony IDs and documents to secure online car loans.
A New York man who led a multi-state conspiracy that involved stealing nearly $900,000 from credit unions and banks was sentenced earlier this month to more than seven years in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Providence, R.I., said.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., also ordered Octavio Andres Difo-Castro, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y., to pay $649,180 in restitution and serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. Difo-Castro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to access device fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and 19 counts of wire fraud.
According to court documents, Difo-Castro purchased blocks of stolen personal identifying information of unsuspecting victims from the dark web. The identities were used to create high-quality drivers’ licenses and other documents he provided to six co-conspirators, who worked at his direction to carry out schemes that defrauded seven credit unions across five states, two banks in two states and two national retailers.
Difo-Castro and co-conspirators searched the internet for late model cars for sale and obtained their vehicle identification numbers to create counterfeit automobile titles and fake bills of sale for them.
According to prosecutors, both the bill of sale and vehicle title identified the owner-seller as a person in whose name they had opened a bank account. Once the vehicle and seller components of the plan were in place, Difo-Castro and his co-conspirators opened online accounts using stolen personal identification information with numerous credit unions. Difo-Castro then made applications with credit unions for used car loans purportedly to purchase the vehicle for which they had counterfeit titles and other fake documents. In support of the loan applications, he provided the credit unions with electronic copies of the counterfeit titles, fake bills of sale, bogus driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.
When the loans were approved, Difo-Castro set in motion a series of steps to ensure that the loan checks did not inadvertently reach the identity theft victim’s address. For example, if the lender sent the loan check via U.S. Postal Service, Difo-Castro used the internet to contact the Postal Service and arrange a temporary hold of the victim’s mail. Once he had confirmed the check was at the post office, he dispatched one of his co-conspirators to pose as the victim and retrieve the mail, according to court documents.
Difo-Castro and his accomplices repeated this process no less than 21 times resulting in a loss of $899,866, victimizing the $10.8 billion Bethpage Federal Credit Union in Bethpage, N.Y., the $27.2 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union in McLean, Va., the $9.8 billion Digital Federal Credit Union in Marlborough, Mass., the $752 million Direct Federal Credit Union in Needham, Mass., the $13.9 billion Alliant Credit Union in Chicago, TD Bank and KeyBank.
Federal prosecutors also said Difo-Castro and three of his co-conspirators carried out another scheme in which they used fraudulent synthetic IDs that helped them secure financing through car and motorcycle dealerships. This scheme exposed the $2.7 billion Pawtucket Credit Union in Pawtucket, R.I., Digital FCU, the $590 million City of Boston Credit Union, Honda Lease Trust and Two-Wheeler Finance to significant potential losses, according to court documents. Prosecutors did not reveal the amount of that potential loss.
Difo-Castro and his co-conspirators also stole $117,341 from national cellphone retailers and $14,067 from national clothing retailers.
Five of the six co-conspirators have been charged, convicted and sentenced for their participation in the fraudulent schemes. The sixth coconspirator is awaiting sentencing, according to prosecutors.