A Cuban national arrested in Bowling Green last year for credit card fraud was sentenced Tuesday to 24 months in federal prison.
Julio Simon, 31, had previously pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, illegal transactions with an access device and illegal possession of access devices.
Law enforcement claimed that Simon and a co-defendant, 29-year-old Noslen Guerra, used illegally re-encoded credit cards at Sam's Club in Bowling Green and at retailers in other cities.
The cards, which contained information belonging to other peoples' credit card accounts, were used to buy gift cards at several stores, court documents show. Guerra is serving a 20-month sentence for the same offenses.
"I'm very sorry," Simon said through an interpreter. "It wasn't my intention to hurt anyone and it's not going to happen again."
U.S. District Judge Greg Stivers also ordered Simon to pay $147,770.55 in restitution.
Simon and Guerra were linked by law enforcement to a car rented at Louisville International Airport on Feb. 11, 2015. They were arrested eight days later outside Sam's Club in Bowling Green under suspicion of identity theft.
At the time of the arrest, police found about 60 re-encoded credit cards in the rental car, and an investigation by multiple law enforcement agencies linked Simon and Guerra to thefts reported at retailers in multiple states, according to federal court records.
The 24-month sentence imposed by Stivers was lower than what had been recommended by attorneys on both sides. Simon's attorney, Patrick Renn, asked for a 27-month sentence for his client while Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Judd argued that Simon should serve 33 months.
Judd argued for a sentence that would deter others from committing similar offenses involving fraudulent credit cards.
"Credit card fraud is, I guess, the crime du jour across the United States," Judd said. "It is rampant."
In Kentucky, credit card fraud was the second-most commonly reported type of identity theft in 2014, with 407 complaints of that nature reported statewide that year, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, published by the Federal Trade Commission.
The Bowling Green metropolitan statistical area was the source of 56 identity theft complaints of all types in 2014, according to the FTC.