CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Two Cuban men, who traveled across 16 Iowa counties in 2017 and used at least 54 stolen identities and card numbers to make fraudulent purchases, were each sentenced Thursday to more than three years in federal prison. A third co-conspirator is awaiting sentencing.
These sentences resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the Waverly (Iowa) Police Department.
Pedro Alvarez Rodriguez, 36, and Dunieski Santana Moreno, 27, both Florida residents, were sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Leonard T. Strand to prison terms of 42 and 40 months, respectively.
According to plea agreements and other information presented in court, Alvarez Rodriguez and Santana Moreno drove across the state of Iowa with a third person, Liliany de Armas Mena, using counterfeit credit cards containing at least 54 “skimmed” account numbers of victims. They used these fake cards to purchase gift cards and gift card reloads at Wal-Mart stores. Their scheme was designed to evade detection by keeping individual transactions under $100, moving across county borders to stay ahead of authorities, and using account numbers “skimmed” within the state of Iowa.
Over the span of only four days in January and February 2017, Alvarez Rodriguez and Santana Moreno visited Wal-Mart stores in the following 16 Iowa counties: West Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Grimes, Altoona, Ames, Boone, Denison, Sioux City, Le Mars, Sioux Center, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Mason City, Cedar Falls and Waverly. Alvarez Rodriguez had previously been convicted in 2015 of attempted robbery in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, after another incident at a Wal-Mart involving counterfeit cards and stolen account numbers. Santana Moreno had previously been convicted in 2015 of financial transaction-card theft in Sumter County, South Carolina.
Both defendants were ordered to make $5,655.08 in restitution to victims. Each must also serve a three-year term of supervised release after they compete their prison terms. Liliany de Armas Mena, who previously pleaded guilty to the same offenses, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30.
In sentencing Alvarez Rodriguez and Santana Moreno, Chief Judge Strand commented that the defendants were parasites motivated by greed, who made their livings off theft and stealing others’ hard-earned money. Both men are being held in federal custody until they can be transported to a federal prison.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lyndie M. Freeman, Northern District of Iowa.