"Skimmer" thieves sentenced in federal court

Matthew Lane • Sep 15, 2018 at 6:00 PM

GREENEVILLE — Two Florida men who stole more than $13,500 using “skimmers” on gas pumps to obtain hundreds of credit and debit card account numbers were sentenced to prison in federal court this week.

Ricardo Viera, 49, of Homestead, and Luis Raul Hernandez-Ugando, 37, of Coral Gables, appeared in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Tuesday. Viera was sentenced to 40 months in prison while Hernandez-Ugando received a four-year prison sentence.

The two were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,943.76.

The two men were charged in a 23-count indictment in August 2017: one count of conspiracy, 11 counts of wire fraud and 11 counts of aggravated identity theft. In May of 2018, both men agreed to plead guilty to a single count of each charge.

According to the plea agreements, in July of last year Viera and Hernandez-Ugando installed skimmers on gas pumps at various gas stations in Northeast Tennessee to steal hundreds of credit and debit card account numbers. The two men then encoded the stolen account information on shoplifted gift cards, effectively changing them into stolen credit cards.

Prosecutors say after the gift cards were loaded with the stolen account information, Viera and Hernandez-Ugando used them to make purchases at retail outlets in Greeneville, Johnson City, Kingsport, Morristown, Elizabethton and Rogersville.

The pair also admitted to using the same scheme in other states including Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska and Minnesota. The two men confessed to stealing more than $13,500 via the skimmer scheme.

According to court records, on July 10, 2017, police approached Viera and Hernandez-Ugando while they were swiping the re-encoded credit cards at a Walmart in Kingsport. Police arrested Viera at one of the self-checkout cash registers, while Hernandez-Ugando was arrested following a short foot chase.

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