A Brazilian national pleaded guilty in connection with a nationwide conspiracy to open fraudulent driver accounts with rideshare and delivery service companies.
Wemerson Dutra Aguiar, 29, a Brazilian national formerly residing in Lynn and Woburn, Mass., pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for May 10, 2022.
In May 2021, Aguiar was charged along with 18 co-defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud by using stolen identities and falsified documents to create fraudulent driver accounts for rent or sale to individuals who might not otherwise qualify to drive for the rideshare or delivery services.
According to the charging documents, the defendants allegedly used victims’ identifying information to apply for driver accounts with the rideshare and delivery companies – enabling the defendants to pass those companies’ required background checks and create driver accounts in victims’ names. At times, it is alleged that the defendants edited victims’ driver’s license images to display photos of the drivers renting or buying the fraudulent accounts in order to circumvent facial recognition technology that the rideshare and delivery companies used as a security measure. The defendants allegedly obtained victims’ names, dates of birth, driver’s license information and or Social Security numbers from co-conspirators and other sources, including sites on the Dark Net. The defendants and co-conspirators also obtained driver’s license images directly from victims, by photographing victims’ licenses while completing an alcohol delivery through one of the services or while exchanging information with victims following vehicle accidents, some of which defendants or co-conspirators intentionally caused in order to obtain victims’ license information. As a result of the scheme, Internal Revenue Service Forms 1099 were generated in victims’ names for income that conspirators earned from the rideshare and delivery companies.
It is further alleged that the defendants used fraudulent driver accounts to exploit referral bonus programs offered by the rideshare and delivery companies and used “bots” and GPS “spoofing” technology to increase the income earned from the companies.
In connection with the scheme, Aguiar admitted that he obtained driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers that his co-conspirators procured from the DarkNet and other sources. Aguiar also admitted that he paid co-conspirators to alter driver’s license photos to display pictures of other individuals and that he used templates to create image files of fraudulent driver’s licenses displaying identity theft victims’ information. Aguiar used these stolen identifiers to create hundreds of fraudulent accounts with the rideshare and delivery companies and supplied these identifiers to other co-conspirators who also created fraudulent accounts. Aguiar advertised fraudulent accounts for sale or rent to Brazilian nationals living in the United States via WhatsApp chat groups and by word of mouth. He managed these accounts and attempted to prevent the accounts from being closed by the companies for fraud. Between June 2019 and January 2021, Aguiar received over $375,000 in rental payments from individuals driving under these accounts and payments from the companies generated with these accounts.
Sixteen of the defendants have been arrested in connection with the conspiracy and three remain at large. Aguiar is the second defendant to plead guilty in the case. If you believe that you may be a victim of the allegations in this case, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/victim-and-witness-assistance-program/us-v-wemerson-dutra-aguiar-and-us-v-priscila-barbosa-et-al.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a sentence of at least two years in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division made the announcement. Valuable assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police; the Concord, Lexington, Plymouth, Wilmington, Marlborough and Village of Rye Brook (N.Y.) Police Departments; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the National Crime Insurance Bureau. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen A. Kearney and David M. Holcomb of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.