A former West Palm Beach, Florida resident pleaded guilty today to multiple criminal charges in connection with a sophisticated global cell phone fraud scheme that involved compromising cellphone customers’ accounts and “cloning” their phones to make fraudulent international calls.
Braulio De la Cruz Vasquez, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, the use, production or possession of modified telecommunications instruments and the use or possession of hardware or software configured to obtain telecommunications services; one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to the plea agreement, De la Cruz and his co-conspirators participated in a scheme to steal access to existing cell phone accounts, and fraudulently open new cellphone accounts, using the personal information of individuals around the United States.
De la Cruz admitted that his role in the scheme included operating a “call site” from his residence in West Palm Beach. He admitted that he would receive identifying information associated with customers’ accounts from his co-conspirators and use that data to reprogram cellphones that he controlled. According to the plea agreement, De la Cruz’s co-conspirators would then transmit thousands of international calls over the internet to De la Cruz’s residence, where he would route them through the re-programmed cellphones to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and other countries with high calling rates. The calls were billed to the customers’ compromised accounts.
De la Cruz is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in the case. Previously, defendants Edwin Fana, Farintong Calderon, Jose Santana, and Ramon Batista pleaded guilty to similar charges and have already been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 36 months to 75 months.
Sentencing for De la Cruz is scheduled for Jan. 18, 2019, before U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom of the Southern District of Florida. He is facing up to 20 years for the conspiracy and wire fraud counts, and a mandatory 2 year consecutive sentence for the aggravated identity theft count.