PROVIDENCE – A Providence woman who admitted to working directly with the local leader of a far-reaching multi-state fraud scheme that defrauded banks, finance companies, car dealerships, and retailers, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to two years and one day in federal prison.
Yenesia Pujols, 48, worked alongside Octavio Andres Difo-Castro, 29, of Edgewater, N.J., the admitted leader of an organization with roots reaching into the Dominican Republic, that purchased stolen personal identifying information from the Dark Web, including Social Security numbers, and used the information to create fraudulent driver’s licenses, open bank accounts, apply for and receive financing for automobiles, and open retail credit accounts used to purchase clothing, electronic devices, and furniture – some of which was shipped to the Dominican Republic and displayed on Instagram accounts.
At the time of his guilty plea, Difo-Castro admitted that at his direction, several individuals opened bank accounts using fraudulent IDs he provided to deposit and withdraw fraudulently obtained funds; to pose as both the seller and the buyer of vehicles to fraudulently secure bank and/or credit union financing from financial institutions in several states; and to obtain retail store credit to make purchases at clothing, furniture, and cellphone retailers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
According to information presented to the court, Pujols willingly agreed to play the role of bank and retail store customers by opening bank accounts to be used exclusively for the purpose of depositing fraudulently obtained car loan checks and quickly siphoning off cash, and to pose as customers at Sprint retailers from which she fraudulently obtained numerous high-end smart phones to be sold by Difo-Castro.
Pujols also admitted to obtaining and using stolen personal identifying information of an American citizen, including her Social Security number and date of birth, to apply for and gain employment. Pujols did so despite claims to Social Security that she was disabled and unable to work, all the while fraudulently collecting Social Security disability benefits.
Additionally, Pujols admitted to using stolen personally identifying information and fraudulent documents provided by Difo-Castro to improve her personal appearance through cosmetic surgery.
Pujols pleaded guilty on October 15, 2019, to aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and Social Security fraud.
At sentencing Thursday, United States District Court Chief Judge John J. McConnell, Jr., imposed a sentence of 24 months and one day imprisonment, 3 years’ supervised release, and ordered Pujols to pay restitution totaling $86,144, announced United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman, Stephen Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, and Scott E. Antolik, Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.
Difo-Castro pleaded guilty on September 19, 2019, to one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to access device fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and nineteen counts of wire fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 17, 2020.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Ferland, with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.
The investigations were led by the U.S. Secret Service, with the assistance of the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General/Office of Investigations.
United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman acknowledges and thanks the United States Postal Inspection Service and East Providence, Seekonk and Mansfield Police Departments for their assistance in the investigations.