Leader of the $1.3M Darknet Fraud Ring Sentenced to 7 years in Prison

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The leader of a multi-state fraud ring that bilked banks, finance companies, car dealerships and retailers out of more than $1.3 million has been sentenced to prison.

Octavio Andres Difo-Castro, 30, of New York City, was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Providence to more than seven years, according to the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s office.

The wide ranging investigation included the help of Seekonk and Mansfield police among several other law enforcement agencies and also snared an Attleboro man.

After Difo-Castro completes his prison term, he will be on probation for three years and was ordered to pay $649,180 in restitution.

According to court documents, soon after arriving in the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2016, Difo-Castro purchased stolen identification information of unsuspecting victims from the dark web.

He used the information to create high-quality drivers’ licenses and other documents he provided to individuals who worked at his direction to execute schemes that defrauded financial institutions and retailers.

Among six other co-defendants is Jason McDonald, 38, of Attleboro. He was sentenced for his involvement in March 2018 to 39 months in prison and was ordered to pay almost $30,000 in restitution.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy, attempted bank fraud, fraudulent use of a Social Security number and aggravated identity theft, according to authorities.

Difo-Castro’s schemes included using the stolen identities and fraudulent documents to open bank accounts that were used to deposit and withdraw fraudulently obtained funds.

Another scheme was posing as both the seller and the buyer of vehicles in order to fraudulently secure financing from financial institutions in several states.

The stolen information was also used to obtain retail store credit and to make purchases at clothing and cellphone retailers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

According to court documents, banks and credit unions were defrauded of almost $900,000, cellphone retailers of $117,000 and clothing retailers of $14,000.

Difo-Castro pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to access device fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and 19 counts of wire fraud.

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Written by ben shekelberg

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