Deliberations underway in sentencing trial for man involved in Tyler card-skimming operation

Deliberations underway in sentencing trial for man involved in Tyler card-skimming operation
Felipe Manuel Nieves Perez, 33, of Austin, appears in court on the first day of his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019. Perez pleaded guilty earlier this year to skimming credit card numbers. He's facing a life sentence. (Arthur Clayborn/KLTV Photojournalist)

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An Austin man has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a credit card skimming operation in Tyler.

Felipe Manuel Nieves Perez, 33, pleaded guilty earlier this year to his involvement in the operation, which involved installing card skimmers with blue tooth capability to be accessed by a laptop used in vehicles parked at gas pumps.

Smith County Assistant District Attorney R. Clay Kimbrough spoke to KLTV after the verdict.

“The message the jury sent certainly supports the efforts of the Tyler Police Department and the Financial Crimes Division and the efforts of detectives Adam Colby and Jeff Roberts who have led the charge so to speak on the investigation of these crimes, and the techniques they have developed on how to find where these skimmers are in gas pumps, how to remove them and make sure that they can catch the folks coming back to steal folks’ credit card numbers.

Kimbrough said the three people involved in the operation were able to steal more than 300 card numbers belonging to individuals and businesses.

“The sheer number of victims and the amount of money taken. We’re were able to calculate about $150,000 probably for this crew for a year. That’s just the credit card transactions. That doesn’t include the ATM/debit transactions that are also present in this case," he said. “That’s an impact to the community that we are not going to tolerate."

PREVIOUS UPDATE

Deliberations are underway in the sentencing trial for an Austin man who pleaded guilty to skimming credit card numbers.

Felipe Manuel Nieves Perez, 33, is facing a possible life sentence for his involvement in the operation, which involved installing card skimmers with blue tooth capability to be accessed by a laptop used in vehicles parked at gas pumps.

The prosecution started Wednesday morning by detailing fraudulent activity found on numerous victims’ accounts.

Michael Duck-Lumbardo’s credit card information was inside a Fiat 500 linked to Perez. It was the same car, a Tyler police investigator previously testified about.

Donald Malmstrom said Tuesday he found 40 gift cards hidden inside a panel created in the trunk of a Fiat 500. He also said a hotel receipt in Perez’ name was found in the same car.

Victims’ testimony

Austin resident Aaron Klunt testified Wednesday that he found out his account had been used in Tyler, but that he’d never been to the city.

Angie Looney, of Whitehouse, said her card was used at Sam’s Club in Tyler for $412; John Ethridge, of Tyler, told the court he learned of fraudulent activity on his card when it card was declined at a restaurant. He later discovered his account had been charged $83 four times for gas station purchases.

Longview resident Ryan Ravellette’s card information was used to make four $200 transactions at a CVS store and a $412 purchase at Sam’s Club, and $412 was also missing from Liberty City resident Maria Falcon’s account.

Several more victims told similar stories about fraudulent activity on their accounts.

Earlier this week, Tyler Police Detective Jeff Roberts testified it is possible to gain from 30 to 100 credit card numbers from each pump a day. He said in a few months more than $77,000 was laundered by buying gift cards at Sam Clubs.

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