US law enforcement officials have shown their determination to pursue telecoms fraudsters by extraditing Braulio De la Cruz Vasquez, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, who was involved in a scam that made international calls using cloned mobile phones. De la Cruz has now pleaded guilty to several criminal charges of fraud and identity theft. The announcement from the US Department of Justice outlines the criminal enterprise:
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 telecommunication identifying information associated with customers’ accounts from his co-conspirators and use that data, as well as other software and hardware, 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.
In addition, De la Cruz admitted that from March 2011 through April 2013, co‑conspirators sent him more than 700 emails containing approximately 2,158 telecommunications identifying numbers associated with cellphone account holders around the United States. He also admitted that, as part of the conspiracy, he received tens of thousands of dollars from at least one Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) company for fraudulently routing international calls through his call center.
The front business for this crime was Arymyx, a comms provider that concentrated on Spanish-speakers living in Florida. Arymyx profited by providing international calls to Caribbean islands with high termination rates whilst dumping the cost on innocent victims whose phones had been cloned. De la Cruz left his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, to return to the Dominican Republic but was arrested by Dominican law enforcement in August, who then extradited him to Miami.
Four of De la Cruz’s accomplices have already been sentenced to prison for their part in the scheme. In March 2017, Arymyx owner Ramon Batista received a 6-year sentence for masterminding the crime.
Catching telecoms fraudsters consumes a lot of time and effort, and the challenge is even greater when it requires the cooperation of law enforcement agencies in different countries. The US prosecutors and agents who diligently pursued De la Cruz deserve to be congratulated for their efforts.