SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The leader of a credit-fraud ring that stole personal financial data from dozens of San Diego residents and used it to buy more than $70,000 worth of merchandise was sentenced Friday in federal court to more than four years in prison.
While handing down the 51-month custody term to 29-year-old Daniel Stephen Wray, U.S. District Judge John Houston also ordered him to pay nearly $76,500 in restitution to his victims.
Wray pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to use counterfeit credit cards.
According to court documents, Wray recruited co-conspirators in late 2016, provided them with fraudulent credit cards and drove them to San Diego- area retail businesses to make illicit purchases.
Investigators said they believed Wray and his accomplices stole personal data from many of the victims via a credit card "skimmer" -- a device that reads and records account information -- surreptitiously planted at a La Jolla gas station.
After creating bogus credit cards with the filched data, the thieves used them to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from San Diego retailers, including Costco and Smart & Final.
Wray admitted to his role as leader of the scheme, acknowledging that he obtained dozens of counterfeit and unauthorized cards and then directed his associates to use them to buy such expensive items as Apple iPads, luxury wristwatches, gold and silver, as well as significant quantities of liquor and energy drinks.
Soon after getting the stolen property, Wray would sell it on the black market, according to prosecutors.
Wray, a San Diego resident, also admitted to previously having been convicted of illegally possessing 269 counterfeit credit cards in 2014.
Wray was on supervised release for his prior conviction when he committed the more recent crimes, and recruited his accomplices from a halfway house where he was serving his supervised release term, according to court documents.
While sentencing Wray this morning, Houston pointed out Wray's lengthy and serious prior criminal record, his aggravated role in the offense and the effects of identity theft, calling it a crime that "destroys lives."
Perpetrators of such schemes "cannot victimize citizens of our district with impunity," San Diego-area U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said.
"To anyone who considers credit card fraud a quick and easy payday, this office will investigate and prosecute you, and you will face the consequences," Braverman said.
A woman was transported to the hospital Sunday after being bitten by a rattlesnake on the cliffs above Torrey Pines State Beach, according to a spokesperson for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
There was a special reunion in La Jolla on Sunday with surf dog Ricochet jumping on a surfboard with quadriplegic surfer Patrick Ivison. Ivison surfed with Ricochet 10 years ago and they got to chance the ride the waves together once again.
Weekend temperatures were mild at 0-7 degrees above average. Mountain and deserts humidity will decrease through Monday as high pressure moves over Southern California.
The investigation continues into the tragic killing of a pregnant mother and her two young daughters in Colorado. The girls' father remains behind bars accused in their deaths.
At least two children had to be hospitalized Sunday as a result of a major crash that blocked multiple lanes of Interstate 8 in El Cajon.
On Saturday, the community of Alpine turned out to help the victims of the devastating West Fire. Dozens packed the Alpine Community Center for a special fundraiser hosted by News 8’s Shawn Styles.
A suspected drunken motorist in a Mercedes Benz on Sunday suffered "numerous serious facial injuries" in the Skyline community of San Diego when he crashed his vehicle into a house, which sustained minor damage, a police officer said.
Military officials on Saturday identified the San Diego- based Marine at the center of a search in the seas southeast of the Philippines that was called off earlier this week.
As the heatwave continues to torment people, shockingly high electricity bills seem to be an added annoyance this summer.