Surveillance in a possible drug trafficking investigation in Butler Twp. turned into the arrest of four Brazilian men accused of possessing sophisticated ATM skimming equipment and more than 400 counterfeit credit cards, according to a criminal complaint filed in Dayton’s U.S. District Court.
The men — Ricardo C. De Andrade, 38, Sandro L. Trancoso Da Silva, 40, Diego M. Dacosta, 31, and Leonardo W. Targino, 19 — were arrested Thursday by Butler Twp. police and booked into the Montgomery County Jail, according to jail records.
The four men appeared Monday in front of U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Sharon Ovington, who scheduled detention hearings for Thursday and preliminary hearings for Feb. 12.
Kevin Dye, Resident Agent in Charge in the Secret Service’s Dayton office, credited the Montgomery County Bulk Smuggling Task Force and Butler Twp. police in the ongoing investigation.
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“The Secret Service aggressively pursues those suspects who would victimize financial institutions, businesses and citizens by using counterfeit credit cards or stealing account information at ATMs from unsuspecting victims,” Dye said. “This investigation highlights the significant coordination between law enforcement officers in the Dayton area in the arrests of suspects committing these types of crimes.”
The affidavit written by Secret Service special agent Jennifer Tron said a task force agent contacted the Secret Service on Jan. 25, when they were conducting surveillance of a Nissan Armada with Florida plates in the Miller Lane area.
Targino was observed using one credit card to pay for $50 of gas and another of several in his possession at an ATM. A Chevy Tahoe drove to the same gas station and both vehicles drove to an Outback Steak House, according to the complaint.
The complaint said both vehicles plates were run and that the Armada was rented by a Felipe Mello in Chicago and that an “alert” from New York State Police was sought for questioning for possible fraudulent credit card purchases.
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After being arrested, Dacosta said he was lawfully admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident in 2006, while Targino said he overstayed his U.S. visa, the complaint said. The affidavit also indicated Da Silva and De Andrade entered the U.S. on B1B2 visas in December.
The complaint said Dacosta, Targino and Targino’s 17-year-old girlfriend traveled to New York City for New Year’s Eve, then to Buffalo and to Cleveland, where they met the other two defendants. All five went to Chicago and stayed in Dayton on their way back to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Two of the men admitted the fraudulent credit cards were used to buy electronics such as iPhones, laptops, virtual reality glasses, electronic cigarettes and clothing, according to the affidavit.
The electronics were then shipped to Florida to a specific address, Tron wrote. Secret Service officials also said three laptop computers, pinhole cameras and a magnetic stripe credit card encoder are indicative of “ATM skimming.”
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The defendants said little — all used a Portuguese interpreter except Dacosta who said he is a citizen who speaks English — during their arraignments on two counts apiece.
Assistant U.S. attorney Dwight Keller said all four face maximums of 12.5 years in prison and $500,000 fines for conspiracy and possession of device-making equipment.
On Jan. 18, two Brazilian nationals were indicted in the Northern District of Ohio with credit card skimmers, 250 counterfeit credit cards and nearly $140,000 in cash, according to court records. In that case, prosecutors wrote that the two men used aliases to rent vehicles.
Secret Service officials haven’t said if the cases are related.
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