PORTLAND — The “ringleader” of a trio of Bronx men who schemed to defraud Home Depot stores in Maine, including in Auburn, was sentenced Friday in federal court to six months in prison.

Gilbert Reyes of the Bronx, New York. Androscoggin County Jail photo

U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. imposed that sentence on Gilbert Reyes, 22, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

In his calculations for determining federal sentencing guidelines, the judge included the value of the merchandise actually stolen as well as the value of the merchandise the men attempted to steal from the stores using fraudulently obtained credit.

The amount of restitution to be repaid was the subject of disagreement among the parties at the hearing. Although the value of stolen merchandise totaled roughly $33,000, some of it was later recovered.

The defense argued the value of the merchandise returned to the store should be deducted from that total to be repaid in restitution. Woodcock gave the attorneys one month to present their written arguments on that issue.

Reyes, who appeared at the hearing via videoconference from a friend’s home in Bronx, New York, was given until May 19 to surrender to authorities to begin serving his time behind bars.

He pleaded guilty at a hearing last year to conspiracy to commit access device fraud, a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

On Thursday, Woodcock sentenced co-defendant Jeremy Pinales-Diaz, 24,  to time-served, followed by three years of supervised release.

During that sentencing, Woodcock referred to Reyes as the “ringleader” of the trio, explaining that he had covered the travel expenses and provided the false identities used in the fraud.

The third defendant, Mickey Augusto Mejia-Rosario, 24, has pleaded guilty to the same charge and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Prosecutors said the trio had sought to defraud the big-box chain stores by opening store credit card accounts using driver’s license information belonging to deceased people.

They were arrested in Auburn on Nov. 26, 2019, by local police after failing to make purchases at self-checkout stations at the Home Depot store on Mount Auburn Avenue using recently obtained store credit.

Earlier that day, Reyes entered the Home Depot store in Biddeford where he opened a credit card account using the driver’s license of a Connecticut man, according to court documents. Reyes then bought items totaling nearly $2,500 using that account.

Next, they drove in the minivan to a South Portland Home Depot where Reyes could be seen on surveillance video getting going into the store. He tried to buy merchandise using a credit account whose information was stored on his cellphone, but the purchase failed, according to investigators.

When a sales associate asked for more information from him, he said he hadn’t finished shopping, then left the store.

Later that day, Reyes went into the Home Depot in Portland, where he bought nearly $2,500 in merchandise using the credit account he’d opened in Biddeford, according to court papers.

At the Auburn Home Depot, also on that day, Reyes tried to buy items at the self-checkout using his recent store credit, but when a sales associate asked him for identification, he walked away and out of the store.

The three men were arrested after driving away from the Auburn store after the store alerted local police, who stopped the minivan.

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