A Riverside man charged in a widespread credit card scam involving arts-and-crafts retailer Michaels is back in New Jersey after several years on the run.
Jose Salazar, aka “Titto,” fled to Mexico after he was indicted in 2015, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Salazar and others were accused of installing bogus point-of-sale terminals at about 80 of the stores in 19 states in 2011. The group allegedly stole about 94,000 debit and credit card numbers from the terminals and used them to create new cards and illegally withdraw cash.
Salazar, 44, of Riverside, California, was arrested in Mexico City last September and made his initial court appearance in Camden by videoconference on Thursday, the U.S. attorney’s office said. He pleaded not guilty and was held without bail.
Salazar faces one count each of bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. The conspiracy count carries a maximum prison term of 30 years.
In 2011, Salazar recruited others to participate in the conspiracy, and from April to May of 2011, he along with Angel Angulo, Crystal Banuelos, and others obtained counterfeit cards with the corresponding PIN numbers written on them from other conspirators, officials said. They used the cards and PIN numbers to withdraw money using ATMs from hundreds of bank accounts.
Two others have pleaded guilty for participating in the scheme. Angulo of Riverside was sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison and ordered to pay $480,300 in restitution. Banuelos was sentenced to time served and five years’ probation.