Officials said a multi-agency raid targeting four residences in Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties resulted in nine arrests all tied to identity theft and credit card fraud.
Authorities said the arrests were the result of a lengthy investigation, targeting identity theft and credit card fraud. The suspects arrested obtained identities from Internet sites and produced hundreds of illegal credit cards used to purchase goods and garner cash.
All the suspects were male Cuban nationals and are tied to a group of Cuban nationals arrested in 2011 by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office following an investigation that also produced nine arrests.
Items confiscated in Friday’s raids included hundreds of cards, many of them blank and ready to have identifications and information applied to them. Along with the cards, investigators found embossing machines, re-encoding devises used to encode fraudulent information, and computers. Machines used to place foil coating on card numbers also were confiscated.
In addition to equipment, more than $13,000 in cash and two vehicles were confiscated in the raids.
Agents with the Electronic Crimes Task Force went to two addresses in Fort Bend County, including one in the 15200 block of Barbarossa Drive and one in the 15900 block of Sierra Grande Drive, both located in the Mission Bend subdivision.
During the raid on Barbarossa, agents spotted one of the suspects driving by. After a short chase, he was arrested.
Agents also went to a home in the 4000 block of Green Crest Drive in Harris County. They also went to a second address, one on Meadows Place Drive, but it was vacant. However, through intelligence gathered by agents, the search quickly moved to a residence in the 11400 block of Stefka Road near Hempstead in Waller County.
With the help of Waller County Sheriff’s Office, task force members raided that home and arrested two men and found equipment.
Investigators said they received help from several area merchants, including JC Penney personnel, during the investigation.
The nine suspects face charges of Credit Card Fraud/Engaging in Organized Crime, Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, Theft and Money Laundering.
Those arrested include: Fernando Castellanos, 46, Manuel Cisneros-Castillo, 43, Alfredo Castillo-Lorente, 37, Osdanay Gascon, Sergio Hevia, Tomaini Rodriguez, 41, Eduardo Tamayo Cid, 27, Maikel Daniel Ocampo Yanes, 29, and Osvaldo Paz, 47.
Gascon and Hevia were taken to the Harris County Jail. All of the others are in the Fort Bend County Jail and each face a $400,000 bond.
The raids involved representatives of the Houston Area Electronic Crimes Task Force, as well as detectives and personnel from the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the Waller County Sheriff’s Office.
The Electronic Crimes Task Force is comprised of personnel from the United States Secret Service, the Houston Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Besides officers from each agency, the SWAT teams from Fort Bend and Harris counties participated in the raids.
The Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office also had personnel who contributed time and effort prior to the raid.
Authorities said their investigation is ongoing.