A grand jury in New Jersey indicted eight former college football players for fraudulently using credit cards purchased on the dark web. The group allegedly worked together to purchase stolen credit cards online and then transferred money into their personal bank accounts and debit cards.
In December 2018, a Middlesex County Superior Court grand jury charged eight former football players from Rutgers University in New Jersey in a nine-count indictment. The indictment accused the former football players of an assortment of crimes related to a “credit card fraud scheme” led by one of the former players. The investigation was launched earlier this year by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Rutgers University Police Department. Not long after authorities had started their investigation, the school dismissed two suspects from the Rutgers University football team, the Scarlet Knights. The other suspects were either dismissed or suspended in the months that followed.
Brendan Devera, a linebacker for the football team until his dismissal in July, faces seven charges. The charges, as listed in the indictment, are as follows: hindering apprehension, credit card theft, receiving stolen property, fraudulent use of a credit card, financial facilitation of criminal activity, conspiracy, receiving stolen property, and theft by deception. Prosecutors had previously pushed for an additional count of promoting organized street crime, but the grand jury left his name out of the organized street crime charge in the indictment. Devera was one of the suspected leaders of the ring, according to one local news outlet. He allegedly purchased stolen credit card numbers from the dark web in effort to cover the cost of his parking tickets. One of his teammates, in another criminal complaint, claimed that Devera had started the ring to help cover essential payments. The fraud eventually took a more serious turn when other former teammates joined in on the scheme.
The second former player kicked off the team in July, Kai Gray, also allegedly functioned as a leader, according to the grand jury indictment. He faces one count of promoting organized street crime in addition to a series of less serious crimes. He also faces a count for receiving stolen property, conspiracy, attempted theft by deception, theft by deception, fraudulent use of a credit card, financial facilitation of criminal activity, hindering apprehension, and credit card theft.
Devera allegedly found a way to transfer funds from the stolen credit cards he had purchased on the dark web into his RU Express account. RU Express is the school’s debit card system for students. Devera then used his school debit card to purchase gift cards at Barnes and Noble at Rutgers University, one of the few places at the university where he could use a card to purchase a gift card. The former football player told his teammates about his scheme and helped them with a similar credit card scheme, prosecutors said. Devera sent more than $2,000 to the RU Express accounts of some of the co-conspirators in the case. They then cashed the accounts out through similar methods. Devera personally purchased gift cards valued at $200 to $800 per transaction before the investigation.
The former players Devera allegedly recruited face less serious charges than Devera and Gray. Kwabena Marfo, Malik Vaccaro-Dixon, Edwin Lopez, Syhiem Simmons, Naijee Jones, and Christian Onyechi were charged with conspiracy and theft by deception.
“While the criminal activity was brought to law enforcement’s attention a couple months ago, as you can imagine with something like this we need to time to gather the evidence, get the financial records,” the county prosecutor said during a press release. The dismissal of the first two players happened months before officials announced the investigation. The school also declined to comment on the reason for the dismissals other than to say they were in “violation of team conduct policies.” The prosecutor added, “Rutgers University Police Department did a very good job on this case. We’ve been able to work with the credit card companies and we’re continuing to work backwards as we move forward with the investigation.”
Hearings are scheduled for the first few months of 2019. Gray faces the most serious charge with a penalty of five years in prison.