Richard ‘Ricky’ Pinedo, an American from Southern California pleaded guilty to buying banking account information and numbers from persons outside the US and then selling those numbers to other non-US parties as part of a fraud scheme, according to documents released by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s office Friday.
The ‘statement of offense’ says that from 2014 through December 2017, Pinedo operated an online service called Auction Essistance that offered a variety of services designed to circumvent the security features of large online digital payment companies, including a large digital payments company the court records call “Company I.” Pinedo sold stolen bank account numbers over the internet. Pinedo did this by getting bank account numbers “either by registering accounts in his own name or by purchasing accounts” in the names of other people through the internet, many of which were purchased using stolen identities of American citizens.
The charging documents say that though Pinedo “was not directly involved in the registration of these accounts using stolen identities, he willfully and intentionally avoided learning about the use of stolen identities.” After getting the stolen account numbers from him, users linked the bank account numbers to their accounts as if they were the real owners. The documents say Pinedo “frequently purchased bank account numbers from an individual he knew to be outside the US.” The gist: Pinedo “knowingly transferred, possessed, and used” hundreds of stolen or bogus bank account numbers to “defeat security measures…,” according to documents provided by the office of the Special Counsel. And he perpetrated this wire fraud from 2014 through December 2017, according to Mueller.
Pinedo pleaded guilty to identity fraud and now faces a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment; a fine of $250,000; a term of supervised release of not more than 3 years, and an obligation to pay fines and restitution and agreed to pay a special assessment of $100 per felony conviction.
Pinedo’s lawyer Jeremy I. Lessem claims his client knows what he did was wrong and he’s sorry, but he didn’t know he was helping foreign nationals: “…Pinedo sold bank information which allowed individuals to fraudulently verify and establish accounts with online financial institutions. Doing so was a
mistake, and Mr. Pinedo has accepted full responsibility for his actions. However, Mr. Pinedo had absolutely no knowledge of the identities and motivations of any of the purchasers of the information he provided. To the extent that Mr. Pinedo ’s actions assisted any individuals, including foreign nationals, from interfering in the American presidential election was done completely without his knowledge or understanding.Given the ongoing nature of this investigation, Mr. Pinedo and his counsel will not be making any further comments at this time.”
This announcement coincided with the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities by Special Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election on charges they used made-up social media postings and ads bought using American identities to swing voters and influence public political opinion during the face-off between then-candidate Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
What You Need To Know About Pinedo:
1. In 2014, Pinedo Shuttered His Business’Auction Essistance’ Which Was At The Heart Of Mueller’s Case
The description, according to Pinedo’s LinkedIn page was to “provide assistance and guidance regarding eBay and Amazon web base support. Also administer website maintenance, advertising, and maintaining customer relations, SEO & marketing support. Developed strong foundation in ecommerce and driving customers to sites via PPC, Organic search and social media based channels.” It was shortly after the company stopped officially operating that the wire fraud began.
2.Despite Owning Several Companies, Pinedo Has A ‘General Education’ Diploma & Associates Degree
Pinedo describes himself as a manager to “devise, audit new & current marketing strategies for small, local businesses both online & offline,” his education is limited. But he does list a number of online certifications and adds that he started out as a sales associate for an LA Fitness gym running the front desk.
3. Pinedo Wrote A How-To Book To Help People Scam eBay After They Have Been Suspended
Pinedo published a book called ‘Ebay Incognito! A Guide To Ebay & Paypal After Suspension’ in 2013 to help users navigate the platforms after being kicked off the platforms. The book is still available online for $15. The guide promises to help people,
in a “top secret” way, creep back on to the marketplace incognito.
4.Pinedo’s Guilty Plea Could Land Him in Prison & Mean He Has To Pay Fines Of $250,000
Pinedo signed off on the plea deal and admitted to the statements of fact which could land him in prison for up to 15 years and cost him hundreds of thousands in fines and restitution.
5.The Plea Deal With The Special Prosecutor Means He Won’t Face Other Charges Related To This Case
According to the letter from Mueller from Feb. 2, when Pinedo signed off with a plea of guilty of identify fraud, he was promised he would not face any new charges; in other words, he may be cooperating with the Special Counsel. It’s not clear what his sentence will be, nor when it is set for. “In consideration of your client’s guilty plea …(he) will not be further prosecuted criminally by this Office for the conduct” described in the charging documents. It does not mean he cannot be charged with other crimes, if any.