Lowell man pleads guilty in ride-hailing fake driver account scheme

A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield. (Richard Vogel/AP)
A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield. (Richard Vogel/AP)

Two men have pleaded guilty to their roles in what federal prosecutors say was a nationwide scheme that used stolen identities to fool ride-hailing and delivery service companies into hiring unqualified drivers.

Edvaldo Rocha Cabral, 42, of Lowell, Massachusetts, and Julio Vieira Braga, 25, of Daly City, California, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Boston.

They were among 19 Brazilian nationals charged last May.

The scheme involved the use of stolen identities to set up fraudulent driver accounts with multiple ride-hailing and delivery companies, prosecutors said. Those accounts were then sold or rented to drivers who might not otherwise qualify for jobs with those services, including those who could not pass background checks or were ineligible to work in the U.S.

In some instances, driver's license details were stolen from unsuspecting victims during the exchange of information following intentionally caused car accidents, according to court documents.

The scheme also employed the use of automated bots and GPS spoofing technology to increase the income earned from the fraudulent accounts, prosecutors said.

Cabral used driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers obtained from the dark web and other sources to create fraudulent accounts with the ride-hailing and delivery companies, then advertised them for sale or rent via social media to Brazilian nationals living in the U.S., prosecutors said. In total, he made more than $430,000 through the scheme.

Braga obtained photographs from driver’s licenses while making alcohol deliveries for one of the companies, prosecutors said. His involvement netted him about $220,000.

Sixteen of those charged in the case have been arrested and three remain at large. Four have now pleaded guilty. Sentencing for Cabral and Braga is scheduled for June 15, when they face more than 20 years behind bars.


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