Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas W. Pilchak and Matthew J. Sutton (619) 546-9709 and (619) 546-8941
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – June 1, 2018
SAN DIEGO – The leader of a credit card fraud ring that stole account information from dozens of San Diego residents and used it to purchase over $70,000 of merchandise at area retailers was sentenced in federal court today to 51 months in prison.
U.S. District Judge John A. Houston sentenced the ringleader, Daniel Stephen Wray, following his January 18, 2018 guilty plea to conspiracy to use counterfeit access devices. Wray was also ordered to pay $76,489.35 in restitution.
As detailed in the plea agreement, indictment, and other publicly-filed court documents, Wray recruited multiple co-conspirators to join his ring of credit card fraudsters in late 2016. Wray then provided these individuals with counterfeit access devices—credit cards bearing altered names, but encoded with real credit card numbers for the accounts of unwitting victims—and drove them to San Diego-area stores.
Investigators believe that many of the victims’ identities and credit card numbers were stolen after Wray and his co-conspirators installed a skimmer at a La Jolla, California gas station. A skimmer is a device capable of reading and recording account information, including customer names, account numbers, and personal identification numbers, from credit and debit cards. After creating the fraudulent credit cards with the stolen credit card numbers, Wray and his co-conspirators then used them to purchase tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise from multiple San Diego retailers, including Costco and Smart N Final.
Wray admitted his role as the leader of the fraudulent scheme, acknowledging that he obtained dozens of counterfeit and unauthorized access devices from multiple victims in San Diego County and then directed his associates to use these fraudulent credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in purchases, ranging from Apple iPads, luxury wristwatches, gold and silver, and significant quantities of liquor and energy drinks from large San Diego retailers. According to court filings, Wray rapidly resold or distributed the stolen property on the black market.
Wray also admitted to being previously convicted of illegally possessing 269 counterfeit credit cards in 2014. In fact, according to court records, Wray was on supervised release for his prior credit card fraud conviction when he committed this crime, and even recruited his accomplices from the halfway house where he was serving his supervised release term.
At sentencing this morning, Judge Houston noted Wray’s lengthy and serious prior criminal record, his aggravating role in the offense, and the effect of identity theft on the lives of ordinary citizens. The judge said Wray’s identity theft conduct “destroys lives.”
“Identity thieves cannot victimize citizens of our district with impunity,” said U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman. “To anyone who considers credit card fraud a quick and easy payday: this office will investigate and prosecute you, and you will face the consequences.”
“Today’s sentencing is a reminder that financial crimes are not victimless crimes,” said United States Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Brian S. Christensen. “The defendant and his conspirators victimized the community of San Diego for their own personal gain by taking advantage of multiple local merchants. The U.S. Secret Service and its law enforcement partners will continue to investigate and pursue prosecution of those who engage in identity theft or financial fraud.”
The San Diego Regional Fraud Task Force (SDRFTF), conducted the investigation that led to the successful prosecution of this defendant. The SDRFTF was established as a collaborative, multi-agency effort to effectively combat financial crimes, including identity fraud, in San Diego County. Partnering in this effort are the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California, the United States Secret Service, the San Diego Police Department, and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, along with other state and local partners. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas W. Pilchak and Matthew J. Sutton.
DEFENDANT Case Number 17CR3856-JAH
Daniel Stephen Wray Age: 29 San Diego, California
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Conspiracy to Commit Access Device Fraud, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1029; Term of custody including 20 years in prison, $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release and mandatory restitution.
San Diego Regional Fraud Task Force:
- United States Secret Service
- San Diego Police Department
- San Diego District Attorney’s Office
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Southern District of California