By Joseph Pereira
The Wall Street Journal
September 14, 2007
Irving Escobar, a ring leader in a TJX Cos.-linked credit-card fraud,
was sentenced to five years in prison and has been ordered to pay nearly
$600,000 in restitution for damages resulting from stolen financial
information, Florida officials said.
The sentencing follows a guilty plea by Mr. Escobar, 19 years old, of
Miami, to charges that he participated in a 10-person operation that
used counterfeit cards bearing the stolen credit-card data of hundreds
of TJX customers to purchase approximately $3 million in goods and gift
cards. The penalty is the stiffest handed down so far in the case.
The thefts were carried out at a string of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club
stores in Florida during the second half of 2006, authorities said. Some
of the merchandise was bought with gift cards that had previously been
purchased with the fraudulent credit cards, a modern-day version of
money laundering, officials said.
In addition to Mr. Escobar, police arrested five others in March in
connection with the scheme. Four have pled guilty to similar charges and
were sentenced to probation in August. A fifth defendant, Mr. Escobar's
mother, Nair Alvarez, who also pled guilty, was deported to Venezuela
for lack of proper immigration papers.
In January, TJX, Framingham, Mass., reported that hackers broke into its
computer system used to manage credit- and debit-card transactions as
well as checks and merchandise returns.
Though the defendants were found in possession of credit card numbers
belonging to TJX customers, investigators believe other criminals are
responsible for hacking into TJX's computer systems.
Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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