Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mokhtari (619) 546-8402
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – May 18, 2022
SAN DIEGO – Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha today became the last of five Brazilian nationals to plead guilty in a nationwide fraud and identity theft scheme.
De Avila pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jill Burkhardt to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering and multiple aggravated identity theft charges.
In May 2021, five Brazilian nationals, including De Avila, were charged with engaging in a nationwide conspiracy to establish fraudulent driver accounts with multiple internet and app-based rideshare and food delivery companies, including by using identities stolen from the customers of those companies.
According to his plea agreement, De Avila admitted that between 2018 and May 2021, he and his co-conspirators, all of whom were Brazilian nationals living in the United States illegally, operated a scheme to defraud major app-based rideshare and food delivery companies. In Spring 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, the conspirators shifted away from the rideshare companies, which saw a dramatic decrease in traffic, to food, grocery and other delivery companies, which saw a corresponding and significant increase in demand. De Avila and his co-conspirators exploited the surge in demand by creating new driver accounts with stolen identities, collecting referral bonuses from the fraudulent accounts, and by using, renting, and selling the accounts to others on these platforms.
De Avila and his co-conspirators also admitted that once they received payment from the rideshare and delivery companies, they laundered the money both to promote the conspiracy and to conceal the fact that the source of the funds were an elaborate fraudulent scheme. While the fraudulent scheme targeted popular app-based rideshare and food delivery services, De Avila and his co-conspirators also stole and used the identities of close to 100 victims to create fraudulent driver accounts on the various platforms over the three-year conspiracy.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “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.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and agents from Homeland Security Investigations for their excellent work to achieve justice in this case.
“Today’s guilty plea is an example that this type of criminal conduct will not be tolerated,” said HSI San Diego acting Special Agent in Charge Juan Munoz. “Homeland Security Investigations agents will continue to investigate allegations of wire fraud, money laundering, and identity fraud to ensure those who participate in these illegal activities will be brought to justice. We also remain committed to working with the prosecutors to bring charges against anyone who deliberately harms and deceives others for their own personal profit.”
Sentencing for De Avila is scheduled for August 29, 2022, at 8:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel.
DEFENDANTS Case Number 21CR1538-GPC
Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha Age: 30 Brazil
Tatiane Pereira Arantes Age: 38 Brazil
Natalia Magalhaes Rocha Age: 30 Brazil
Leonardo Trulsen De Oliveira Age: 30 Brazil
Thassya Da Silva Alves Age: 30 Brazil
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Count 1 – Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., 1349
Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison, $250,000 fine
Count 2 – Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments – Title 18, U.S.C., 1956(a)(1)(A)(i), (b)(i), and 1956(h)
Maximum Penalty: Twenty years in prison, $500,000 fine or twice the value of the monetary instruments
Counts 3-17- Aggravated Identity Theft – Title 18, U.S.C., 1028A
Maximum Penalty: Mandatory-minimum two years in prison, to run consecutively to the specified felony.
Homeland Security Investigations