The last of five Brazilian nationals charged by San Diego federal prosecutors for running a nationwide scheme that involved stealing the identities of rideshare and food delivery app customers has pleaded guilty, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday.
Prosecutors say that over the course of three years, the group stole information from victims' driver's licenses and Social Security numbers, used that info to create driver accounts for rideshare and delivery companies, then used, rented or sold those accounts, including to people who otherwise would not qualify to drive for the companies.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says the defendants received payments from the companies and laundered the proceeds of the scheme, which began in 2018.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the defendants shifted away from rideshare companies when demand for those services decreased and moved largely to food delivery services, which were far more successful during the pandemic.
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Prosecutors say that in addition to defrauding the app-based companies, the defendants also stole and used the identities of nearly 100 people. The U.S. Attorney's Office did not identify which companies were utilized in the alleged scheme.
Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha, 30; Tatiane Pereira Arantes, 38; Natalia Magalhaes Rocha, 30; Leonardo Trulsen De Oliveira, 30, and Thassya Da Silva Alves, 30, were charged last year and have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aggravated identity theft counts.
"As of today, all five defendants in this case have admitted their elaborate scheme to steal the identities of hundreds of unsuspecting victims, many of whom turned to food delivery services to survive the pandemic," U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. "Identity theft can be a nightmare of frustration and angst for victims who struggle to reclaim their good names. These defendants are the ones struggling now."