The second of two New York men busted in January as part of an identity theft scam operating in Carbondale has been sentenced to several years in prison.
Jonathan S. Gonzalez, 29, of New York City pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to commit identity theft and possession of a counterfeit debit card. At a sentencing hearing last week, he was sentenced to four years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the conspiracy charge and one year for the debit card charge.
His codefendant, 24-year-old Brian P. Rivera of New York City, also pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit identity theft in March and already has been sentenced to four years in prison.
State’s Attorney Mike Carr says that on Jan. 8, Carbondale Police officers responded to a report of suspicious activity at the Verizon store on East Main Street and learned Rivera had just purchased $1,700 worth of merchandise and charged it to the Verizon account of a person living in Arizona. Rivera reportedly presented an Arizona identification card bearing his photo but the name and address of the Arizona victim. Verizon staff called the victim, who confirmed the purchase was fraudulent.
After Rivera left the store, Gonzalez entered and attempted to purchase merchandise using an account of someone living in Connecticut. Officers made contact with Rivera in a vehicle outside of the Verizon store and recovered the fictitious identification card and the merchandise. Upon searching Rivera’s vehicle, officers located additional stolen identities, including names and social security numbers for other victims. Gonzalez was apprehended as he was exiting the Verizon store.
Detectives also seized Rivera’s cellular phone and later executed a search warrant on that phone, recovering information that implicated Rivera and Gonzalez as being involved in a large conspiracy involving identity theft. Detectives learned Rivera and Gonzalez began traveling from New York Jan. 2 and were in communication with at least three other individuals involved in the conspiracy.
A number of stolen identities were sent to Rivera for the purpose of targeting Verizon locations and using those stolen identities to fraudulently purchase merchandise on the victims’ Verizon accounts. That merchandise later was sold for cash, with the proceeds distributed to the people involved in the conspiracy.
Detectives found similar stops were made in Kentucky, Indiana and nearby Marion.