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United States v. Ruiz-Lopez

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

June 5, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DAMIAN RUIZ-LOPEZ

          ORDER

          STEVEN D. MERRYDAY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Ruiz-Lopez moves under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 1) to vacate and challenges the validity of his convictions for one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, for which offenses he is imprisoned for seventy months. Although timely, Ruiz-Lopez's motion lacks merit because in the plea agreement he waived the right to raise the grounds he asserts in the motion to vacate.

         Rule 4, Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases, requires a preliminary review of the motion to vacate. Section 2255 requires denial of the motion without a response if the "motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief. . . ." Accord Wright v. United States, 624 F.2d 557, 558 (5th Cir. 1980)[1] (finding the summary dismissal of a Section 2255 motion was proper "[b]ecause in this case the record, uncontradicted by [defendant], shows that he is not entitled to relief); Hart v. United States, 565 F.2d 360, 361 (5th Cir. 1978) ("Rule 4(b) [Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings], allows the district court to summarily dismiss the motion and notify the movant if 'it plainly appears from the face of the motion and any annexed exhibits and the prior proceedings in the case that the movant is not entitled to relief'") See United States v. Deal, 678 F.2d 1062, 1065 (11th Cir. 1982) (citing Wright and Hart).

         FACTS[2]

         [I]n the Middle District of Florida and elsewhere, defendants Damian Ruiz-Lopez, Justin Lugo, and Dani Munoz-Guzman conspired with separately charged Miguel Perez and others to obtain money from financial institutions by means of fraudulent representations using counterfeit credit and debit cards. Specifically, defendants were part of a criminal "carding" group in the Tampa Bay area that purchased stolen credit card and debit card information, along with account holder names and postal zip codes, from an online website with the initials VM. The conspirators then used a laptop and a card encoder to re-encode used gift or other cards with the stolen information. The conspirators used the counterfeit credit and debit cards to purchase fuel (or other items) from area gas stations and retail locations, including at Sam's Club. Conspirators typically filled their vehicle's tank with fuel, and then filled a secondary bladder, or a storage container, with fuel. Members of the organization then sold the fuel at a discounted rate to truck drivers, converting the stolen fuel into cash. The conspirators used 639 different credit and/or debit cards as part of the group, causing $170, 571.49 in actual loss to the financial institutions and/or individual victims. The 639 counterfeit credit and/or debit cards had a total credit limit/available balance of $1, 969, 243.96.

         The conspirators in this case usually purchased their stolen credit and debit card information from the VM website. It is an invitation only website, where you must be recommended by another member in order to receive a username and password. VM appears similar to the E-Bay website, but it is exclusively dedicated to criminal purposes - the website sells stolen credit card and debit card information. The slogan for the site is "Private Information Sellers & Magnetic Stripe Kings." The site boasts that it has over 3 million stolen American credit and debit card numbers, and that its card data is 95% valid. The vendors on the website are typically computer hackers, many of whom are of Russian or Ukrainian background. To fund a VM account, the user must send money to designated recipients, typically in the Ukraine. In order to thwart law enforcement efforts, the recipient accounts are typically changed on a regular basis. The website sells "dumps" of credit card and debit card information. The price of the credit card and debit card information depends based on the quality of the information, and for a higher price of about $20, includes zip code information regarding the account holder. More valuable credit and debit card information can be priced even higher depending on the credit limit for the card.

         Therefore, as part of the carding scheme, . . . Ruiz-Lopez conspired with Perez, Dani Munoz-Guzman and others to transfer money from inside the United States to locations outside the United States (specifically, the Ukraine) in order to promote the bank fraud conspiracy. In total, records recovered indicate that, as part of the scheme: (1) Perez sent $2, 150 via Western Union ... to recipients in the Ukraine and (2) that Perez, Damian Ruiz-Lopez and Dani Munoz-Guzman and other co-conspirators sent $11, 400 via MoneyGram to recipients in the Ukraine ....

         The money was sent to these recipients to place funds on Miguel Perez's account with the website VM. Those funds were then used to promote the scheme by purchasing additional stolen credit and debit card information to create counterfeit credit and debit cards to facilitate the bank fraud conspiracy.

         Lugo, Ruiz-Lopez, and Munoz-Guzman are all on video multiple times purchasing large amounts of gasoline using stolen credit and debit card information as part of the scheme. For example, on July 4, 2013, . . . Ruiz-Lopez made a series of fraudulent purchases of gasoline from a Sam's Club location in Brandon, Florida, using a counterfeit access device and a Sam's Club membership card in Ruiz-Lopez's name. On that same day . . . Munoz-Guzman made a series of fraudulent gasoline purchases from the same Sam's Club location using another counterfeit access device and a Sam's Club membership card in Ruiz-Lopez's name. All of these transactions were captured on surveillance video at the gas station.

         Justin Lugo was also captured on surveillance video performing fraudulent transactions. For example, on July 9, 2013, . . . Lugo was captured on video during a series of fraudulent gas purchases at a Sam's Club location in Clearwater, Florida. Lugo also used a counterfeit access device, and also used a Sam's Club membership card in Ruiz-Lopez's name.

         Following his arrest on federal charges on May 20, 2014, separately charged Miguel Perez waived his Miranda rights and agreed to speak to law enforcement without his lawyer present. Perez admitted that he and co-conspirators had been purchasing stolen credit and debit card numbers on VM and that he had purchased three different card encoders in order to then encode the information on gift cards. Perez said that he and the co-conspirators would then use the counterfeit access devices to purchase gasoline and then resell the gasoline [at a profit]. Perez estimated that he made about $800 dollars a week from the card scheme, and that he would encode approximately two to three cards a week.

         Following his arrest on December 17, 2014, Justin Lugo waived his Miranda rights and spoke to law enforcement. Lugo told law enforcement personnel that he performed credit/debit card fraud on multiple occasions. Lugo said that on multiple occasions, Perez and/or Ruis-Lopez supplied him with 5-7 counterfeit credit/debit cards at a time, and that Lugo would drive a white pick-up truck outfitted with a bladder to area gas stations and fill the tank and the bladder of the truck up using the counterfeit credit and debit cards. Lugo said that he would then return the truck with the stolen gas to Perez's residence in order to off-load the gas and that then he would repeat the process of purchasing stolen gas. Lugo said that Perez paid Lugo between $50-70 each day, depending on how many trips he made for gas.

         Many of the financial institutions defrauded by this conspiracy are federally insured. With respect to the credit unions affected, many of the fraudulent charges were made on cards issued by Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union, Altra Federal Credit Union, and Navy Federal Credit Union. The deposits of federal credit unions are insured federally by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund. In addition, there were fraudulent charges as part of the scheme on cards issued by Wells Fargo Bank, Wachovia ...


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