A Saugus woman has confessed to her involvement with a nationwide conspiracy to open fraudulent driver accounts with rideshare and delivery service companies. Priscila Barbosa, 35, this week pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Barbosa also pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated identity theft. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf scheduled sentencing for Aug. 4.
Barbosa was charged last year along with 18 codefendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud by using stolen identities and falsified documents to create fraudulent driver accounts for rent or sale to individuals who might not otherwise qualify to drive for the rideshare or delivery services.
According to the charging documents, the defendant allegedly used victims’ identifying information to apply for driver accounts with the rideshare and delivery companies – enabling her to pass the companies’ required background checks and create driver accounts in victims’ names. She also allegedly obtained victims’ names, dates of birth, driver’s license information and/or Social Security numbers from coconspirators and other sources, including sites on the “darknet.” Barbosa and coconspirators also obtained driver’s license images directly from victims, by photographing victims’ licenses while completing an alcohol delivery through one of the services or while exchanging information with victims following vehicle accidents, some of which defendants or coconspirators allegedly intentionally caused in order to obtain license information. As a result of the scheme, Internal Revenue Service Forms 1099 were generated in victims’ names for income that conspirators earned from the rideshare and delivery companies.
In connection with the scheme, Barbosa obtained driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers that she and her coconspirators procured from the “darknet” and other sources. She then used these stolen identifiers to create and apply for numerous fraudulent accounts with the rideshare and delivery companies and supplied these identifiers to other coconspirators who also created fraudulent accounts. To circumvent facial recognition technology utilized by rideshare and delivery companies as a security measure, Barbosa edited victims’ driver’s license images to display photos of the drivers renting or buying the fraudulent accounts. In total, Barbosa admitted to creating over 2,000 fraudulent rideshare accounts.
Barbosa also advertised fraudulent driver accounts for rent and purchase to potential drivers, including via WhatsApp chat groups targeted to Brazilian nationals living in the United States. Barbosa managed the fraudulent accounts she rented out, specifically by collecting rental payments and troubleshooting issues that arose. Additionally, Barbosa used fraudulent driver accounts to exploit referral bonus programs offered by the rideshare and delivery companies and used “bots” and GPS “spoofing” technology to increase the income earned from the companies. Barbosa received over approximately $791,000 from the scheme in the form of rental payments from individuals driving under these accounts and payments from the companies generated with these accounts.
Sixteen of the defendants have been arrested in connection with the conspiracy and three remain at large. Barbosa is the fifth defendant to plead guilty in the case. If you believe that you might be a victim of the allegations in this case, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/victim-and-witness-assistance-program/us-v-wemerson-dutra-aguiar-and-us-v-priscila-barbosa-et-al.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a sentence of at least two years in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael Rollins and the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston Division, Joseph Bonavolonta, made the announcement. Valuable assistance was provided by the Massachusetts State Police; the Concord, Lexington, Plymouth, Wilmington, Marlborough and Village of Rye Brook (N.Y.) Police Departments; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the National Crime Insurance Bureau. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristen Kearney and David Holcomb of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.