A man who pleaded guilty in New Orleans' federal court to credit card fraud charges after a Disney cruise ship rescued him from a boat that capsized in waters between Florida and Cuba has received a 2 1/2-year prison sentence.
Additionally, Jesus Enrique Gonzalez Torres could spend up to three years on supervised release, and he was ordered to pay nearly $8,000 in restitution, along with five co-defendants who have also pleaded guilty in the case, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite's office said this week.
Gonzalez faced up to seven years in prison after pleading guilty this summer in front of U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown to conspiracy to commit credit card fraud as well as aggravated identity theft.
Three admitted credit card thieves can blame their federal convictions in New Orleans on the…
Court records alleged that Gonzalez and the other defendants came to the New Orleans area from Florida in the summer of 2015 and collaborated on placing credit-card skimming devices on gasoline station pumps.
Prosecutors said the group encoded any stolen credit card numbers onto counterfeit gift and prepaid debit cards to make various purchases. They were arrested and then charged by the feds after a cashier examining the pumps at a Harahan gas station spotted two skimming devices and called authorities.
Having made bail, Gonzalez and two of his co-defendants boarded a boat and tried to reach their native Cuba in April, but they capsized about 40 miles north of the Caribbean island's coast.
The Disney Fantasy cruise liner then plucked the would-be fugitives out of the water before they were turned over to authorities and returned to New Orleans to face the federal charges filed against them there.
It is not unusual for groups of Cubans specializing in credit-card fraud and similar crimes to flee to Cuba from the U.S. once they are caught because of that country's policy against extraditing its nationals to American authorities, according to a 2015 investigation by Florida's Sun Sentinel newspaper.
Schemes like the one Gonzalez and the others were charged with running have cost big-box retailers millions of dollars, the Sun Sentinel added.
An attorney for Gonzalez and his co-defendants has said his clients came to the U.S. to escape Cuba's dictatorial government only to discover they could not make a living wage here with their level of education.
Gonzalez was the first of the defendants in the case to be sentenced.