BOSTON – A Brazilian national was indicted today in federal court in Boston in connection with using gift cards to withdraw over $6,000 from bank accounts that did not belong to him.
Hellison Benazi de Souza, 37, was indicted on one count of using counterfeit access devices (debit cards); one count of possessing fifteen or more counterfeit access devices (debit cards); three counts of possessing device-making equipment (skimming devices installed on ATMs in Malden and Saugus); one count of illegal transactions with an access device (other persons’ debit cards); and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the complaint affidavit, on May 25, 2017, Benazi de Souza used ATMs at three banks in Lynn to withdraw over $6,000 from various accounts that did not belong to him. Law enforcement officers immediately apprehended Benazi de Souza, arrested him, and impounded his rental car.
While executing a search warrant for the car, officers found thousands of dollars in cash, all in $20 bills. Officers also found over 200 gift cards with small stickers on them. Agents learned that 15 of the cards matched debit cards associated with valid JPMorgan Chase bank accounts from which unauthorized withdrawals had been made at the three banks in Lynn on May 25, 2017. When questioned, Benazi de Souza admitted using the cards to withdraw money from ATMs and admitted that the stickers on the cards contained the cardholders’ PINs.
The charging statute for aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. The charges of using counterfeit access devices and possessing fifteen or more counterfeit access devices provide for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charges of possessing device-making equipment and illegal transactions with an access device provide for a sentence of no greater than 15 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Benazi de Souza will be subject to deportation upon completion of his sentence. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb and Stephen A. Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Wichers of Weinreb’s Major Crimes Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
District of Massachusetts