PORTLAND — A judge told a Bronx man who defrauded Home Depot stores in 2019 — including in Auburn — that his actions involving an identity-theft scheme were “shameful” and “immoral.”

Jeremy Pinales-Diaz of the Bronx, New York. Androscoggin County Jail

But U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. said Thursday that he would follow a recommendation by prosecutors and sentence Jeremy Francisco Pinales-Diaz, 24, to the one day in jail he’s already served plus three years of supervised release.

“This is not a mere shoplifting incident,” Woodcock told the defendant. It was “sophisticated” and “extraordinarily brazen,” he said.

“I think what you did was shameful. I think it’s immoral and it’s illegal,” Woodcock said.

“You have Mr. Perry to thank for this sentence,” he said, referring to Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry.

Perry said, “I hope this is a one-off for Mr. Pinales-Diaz and he has learned his lesson.”

Pinales-Diaz appeared for his sentencing via Zoom videoconference from his home in Bronx, New York.

He told the judge through a Spanish translator: “I’m very, very sorry for this whole situation. I made a mistake … I understand I’m responsible for my actions, but I’m here because I want to move forward with my life.”

He said he plans to finish college and pursue a career as a graphic designer. Pinales-Diaz said he left Bronx Community College after one semester because he couldn’t afford to continue. He worked for FedEx and Uber until a year ago when the new coronavirus pandemic shut down the economy.

He came to the United States from the Dominican Republic at age 14 with his father and brother.

He had no criminal history.

Woodcock said Pinales-Diaz is responsible for paying restitution to Home Depot and Citigroup for a total of roughly $17,500 either by himself or with his two co-defendants.

He pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit access device fraud, a Class D felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

According to court records, Pinales-Diaz and two other Bronx men were arrested in Auburn in November 2019 by local police after failing to make purchases at self-checkout stations at the Mount Auburn Avenue store using recently obtained store credit.

Prosecutors said the trio had sought to defraud the big-box chain stores in Maine by opening store credit card accounts using driver’s license information belonging to deceased people. After establishing credit, they would attempt to buy merchandise at the stores and take the stolen goods back to New York to sell.

Woodcock identified as the leader of the group Gilbert Reyes, who is scheduled for sentencing Friday. Reyes had supplied the group with transportation and false identities, Woodcock said.

At a Home Depot store in Portland, Pinales-Diaz applied for an electronic line of credit and had then tried to buy merchandise with the bogus credit, but the transaction was rejected. In Auburn, he had tried to pay for nearly $1,000 of power tools at the self-checkout, but that transaction also failed, Woodcock said.

The store relayed information about the attempted purchases to local police.

When the minivan he was riding in was stopped by Auburn police after leaving the Auburn store, Pinales-Diaz told them he had tossed the phony IDs out the window, according to court records.

Defense attorney Peter Rodway told the judge, “The 24-year-old brain sometimes lacks good judgment.”

Pinales-Diaz said he had been lured by the promise of  “easy money,” Rodway said.

Two school friends of Pinales-Diaz spoke on his behalf Thursday, both saying he was a “good person” who “made a mistake.”

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: