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Financial Crimes

Operation Easy Check nets 39 arrests for bank fraud and aggravated identity theft

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As part of a criminal investigation into an alleged conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Puerto Rico Police Department and Puerto Rico’s Department of Treasury, arrested 39 individuals in nine Puerto Rican municipalities Friday during an operation dubbed Easy Check.

"These arrests are a reflection of the success that comes when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to target criminal organizations and individuals in Puerto Rico," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "At HSI, we follow the money trail to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most complicated financial schemes and seize criminal assets. We will continue to aggressively investigate fraudulent financial schemes that put in jeopardy the integrity of our financial system and are often a gateway to further criminal activity."

According to the indictment, those arrested devised a scheme to defraud Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, Banco Santander de Puerto Rico, First Bank, Scotiabank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Doral Bank, all financial institutions whose deposits were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Since 2010, the organization headed by an individual named Kelvin Garcia-Oquendo engaged in bank fraud causing losses to several financial institutions of $580,089. The organization intended for losses at those institutions to exceed $1.2 million.

Individuals, operating as part of the organization, performed different roles in furtherance of the conspiracy. They were leaders, organizers, recruiters and facilitators who would either open bank accounts or lend existing bank accounts for the deposit of false and fraudulent checks. Some individuals would use ATM cards to purchase MoneyGram and U.S. Postal Service money orders with the proceeds of the bank fraud scheme. Others would go to different post offices to cash the money orders.

Throughout the course of the conspiracy, Garcia-Oquendo, Luis Luzunariz-Cruz and Ramon Lopez-Garcia acted as leaders for the criminal organization. The leaders would create fraudulent checks and have their co-conspirators deposit them. Then, they would determine how much money would be withdrawn from the bank accounts in which the false checks had been deposited. The leaders also played roles such as recruiting individuals and purchasing and cashing money orders.

Those arrested are:

  • Kelvin Garcia-Oquendo
  • Ramon L. Lopez-Garcia
  • Alejandro Rodriguez-Arce
  • Georgie Garcia-Oquendo
  • Joel Bezares-Cruz
  • Oscar Diaz-Maldonado
  • David Mestre-Cuadrado
  • Ernesto J. Bravo-Rivera
  • Jonathan Sierra-Coto
  • Angel L. Crespo
  • Carlos Delgado-Gomez
  • Alvin Rivera-Martinez
  • Ruperto Rijos Perez
  • Marie Grillasca-Battistini
  • Edwin Murillo-Rivera
  • Raul Martes-Colon
  • Maylee Garcia-Oquendo
  • Beatriz Nieves-Garcia
  • Yinairy Mediana-Castro
  • Sonia Rivera-Velazquez
  • Idalia Santana-Alamo
  • Gabriel Ramos-Rios
  • Jose G. Sanchez-Diaz
  • Hector Barbosa-Vellon
  • Jorge M. Agosto
  • Misha Rodriguez-Lazu
  • Hector e. Rivera-Ortiz
  • Felix Delgado-Velez
  • Brenda I. Ortiz-Echevarria
  • Wilfredo Moran-Castro
  • Ahmed D. Reyes-Vega
  • William Agosto-Diaz
  • Melitza Naveira-Sanabria
  • Maria del Carmen Garcia-Diaz
  • Alfonso Capestany
  • Kenny Quinones-Vazquez
  • Luis Ramos-Pacheco
  • Edgardo Castro-Santana
  • Ramon Matos-Santiago

Garcia-Oquendo, Luzunaris-Cruz, Sanchez-Diaz, Garcia-Oquendo, Marte-Colon, Lopez-Garcia and Delgado-Gómez face eight counts of aggravated identity theft. These defendants, while aiding and abetting each other, knowingly transferred and used the name, bank account number and information, as well as the ATM personal identification number belonging to another person. The defendants did so with the sole purpose of retrieving bank account funds that were proceeds of the bank fraud scheme.

Those arrested face up to 30 years in prison and fines not to exceed $1 million. Those defendants charged with aggravated identity theft face mandatory minimum sentences of two years in prison to run consecutive with the sentences imposed for the bank fraud charges.