Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha pleaded guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and multiple aggravated identity theft charges.
In May 2021, De Avila was charged with four Brazilian nationals in a nationwide fraud and identity theft scheme. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the group was charged with 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.
Prosecutors say that over the course of three years, the group stole information from nearly 100 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.
“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,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney's office said the defendants received payments beginning 2018 from the companies and laundered the proceeds of the scheme. The group shifted away from rideshare companies when the pandemic began in 2020 and moved largely to food delivery services, which were far more successful during the pandemic.
Gustavo De Avila Moreira Farinha, 30; Tatiane Pereira Arantes, 38; Natalia Magalhaes Rocha,n 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,” 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.