4 February 2005 – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Marcos Daniel Jiménez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and William T. Sims, Special Agent in Charge, Miami Field Office, United States Secret Service, announced today that on Friday, February 4, 2005, defendants, Gilberto Felix and Julio Felix pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit check fraud, wire fraud, and the pirating of DirecTV satellite programming, as well as substantive check fraud and wire fraud charges. Gilberto Felix also plead guilty to Social Security fraud. Gilberto Felix faces a statutory maximum possible term of imprisonment of up to forty (40) years, and Julio Felix faces up to thirty-five (35) years in prison. The brothers are set to be sentenced by United States District Court Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga on April 18, 2005.
On April 22, 2004, a federal grand jury sitting in Miami, Florida, returned charges against the Felix brothers and seventeen (17) other co-conspirators in a ninety-five (95) count Indictment. To date, seventeen (17) of the nineteen (19) defendants have been apprehended, and all seventeen (17) have since pleaded guilty.
The defendants that have pleaded guilty are: Gilberto Felix, Julio Felix, Garry Tubby, Philip Dickinson, Lisa Cundiff, Marilyn Novel Blue, Sylvio Vitiello, Gene Laforest, Ashley Carter, Linda Brinker, Zona Russano, Dasniel David Barrera, Verne Edward Bell, Odalis Melendez, Keirsten Shestik, Gerard Olivier, and Eugenie Hasbrouck. Two other defendants remain at large: David Brown and Marck Van Tuyl.
This investigation was led by the United States Secret Service and lasted a number of years. The investigation uncovered a vast, complex check fraud scheme that lasted from about May of 1996 until April of 2004, and as a part of that check fraud conspiracy, there was also a
conspiracy to reprogram access cards manufactured by NDS Americas for the piracy of DirecTV satellite television programming. The genesis of the check fraud conspiracy came from Gilberto Felix, and the DirecTV piracy aspects of the conspiracy principally rested with Julio Felix.
The conspiracy involved Gilberto Felix creating counterfeit birth certificates and other personal identifier documents – such as false Social Security numbers and counterfeit W-2 wage and earnings statements – to obtain valid, official Florida photo identification (“ID”) cards from the State of Florida’s Department of Highway and Motor Vehicle Safety. Besides using these forged documents himself to obtain genuine Florida ID cards in fictitious names, Gilberto Felix also would recruit people to use these forged personal identifier documents to obtain the genuine ID cards in the fake names. These persons were the check writers of the conspiracy.
With the valid photo ID cards, which were fraudulently obtained, Gilberto Felix and the co-conspirator check writers would use counterfeit personal and corporate checks to purchase merchandise at major retail businesses in the Southern District of Florida. These counterfeit checks were produced by Gilberto Felix, and the corporate checks contained the names of real, local South Florida small businesses. In total, hundreds of small businesses’ names were used on these counterfeit business checks. These checks were then taken by Gilberto Felix and the check writers to stores such as Best Buy, Brands Mart USA, Circuit City, Comp USA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Office Depot, and Office Max, among others. Most of the items bought were expensive, high-end electronic merchandise. In the process of negotiating these checks at the check-out counter, point-of-sale optical scanners were used to electronically transfer information from those counterfeit checks to certain check authorization companies, including Certegy Check Services (formerly “Equifax Check Services”) and TeleCheck Services, Inc., who would approve the checks unaware that they were counterfeit.
Once the merchandise was purchased, it would be provided by the co-conspirator check writers to Gilberto Felix and/or Julio Felix, and in return, the co-conspirators would typically receive 25% of the retail purchase price. On or about November 11, 2000, Julio Felix joined eBay, Inc.’s auction website with a user identification name of “firstname.lastname@example.org,” which was later changed to newratik_of_the_banana_republic. Julio Felix made his first sale on eBay on or about November 18, 2000 of a brand new Hewlett-Packard 932C printer for $152.50. On or about November 24, 2000, Julio Felix opened a gold checking account at Washington Mutual Bank, and shortly thereafter Julio Felix began receiving deposits from PayPal, BillPoint, and I Escrow, Inc. These companies are on-line escrow services that users of eBay frequently use to receive payment for items sold over eBay.
In total, Julio Felix’s Washington Mutual Bank account received approximately $249,475 from PayPal, $24,853.07 from BillPoint, and $1,532.77 from I Escrow. From the gold checking account, Julio Felix paid for thousands of dollars in United Parcel Service shipping charges, and he wrote numerous personal checks to Gilberto Felix for more than $100,000. Julio Felix also paid the mortgages for his residence and Gilberto Felix’s residence from that checking account.
Using his eBay account, Julio Felix conducted more than 1,000 auctions, selling high-end electronics merchandise and other items, repeatedly listed as NIB, or “new in box.” His total sales on eBay were in excess of $360,000 dollars. One of the sales by Julio Felix was on or about February 23, 2001 in which he listed ten “DSS Emulator Data Logger[s]” as part of a Dutch auction. A DSS Emulator is a digital satellite system emulator, which is used for the piracy of satellite programming. This auction was shut down by eBay after eBay had been contacted by representatives of DirecTV and NDS Americas.
As a part of this conspiracy, sometimes check writers would obtain satellite systems for DirecTV with counterfeit checks, and those systems would be passed on to Julio Felix knowing that Julio Felix would reprogram the access cards to allow for the illegal interception of satellite television programming. Indeed, law enforcement conducted a search of Julio Felix’s computers that were seized pursuant to a search warrant and located numerous files for the piracy of DirecTV satellite television programming. Forensic computer experts from DirecTV and NDS Americas, Inc., the which is company that developed the encryption technology used by DirecTV, located far in excess of 200 files used for the sole purpose of illicitly modifying and replacing legitimate security controls on NDS smart cards for the purpose of satellite signal theft. E-mail messages also were found concerning the piracy of DirecTV satellite programming.
During the pendency of this conspiracy, certain check writers, along with Gilberto Felix, traveled to New Jersey to continue to perpetrate the crime in another jurisdiction. While there, numerous UPS boxes were shipped to Julio Felix’s residence labeled “Kaos and Fatboy Productions.” On one occasion, on December 15, 2002, Philip Dickinson, who already has pleaded guilty in this case, was captured on a Circuit City surveillance camera purchasing a Toshiba 1905-s301 notebook computer for $1,399.99 with an fictitious New Jersey identification card in the name of David Lomack. Days later on December 26, 2002, a “new” Toshiba 1905-s301 notebook computer was sold for $1,100 on eBay by Julio Felix as “newratick_of_the_banana_republic.” That fraudulent identification card was later found and seized by Secret Service agents during a search of Gilberto Felix’s residence in April of 2004.
In total, this fraud involved the obtaining of hundreds of genuine Florida identification cards with counterfeit documents and the uttering of thousands of counterfeit personal and corporate checks that affected hundreds of small businesses. The total loss amount currently known by law enforcement is in excess of $1.2 million for the check fraud and more than $500,000 for the piracy of DirecTV satellite television programming.
Mr. Jiménez commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Inspector General’s Office of the Social Security Administration, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol and the Pembroke Pines Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Charles Duross and Yordanka Delionado.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on .