News and Press Releases

Men Plead Guilty to Unauthorized Withdrawals from Bank Accounts Through "Phishing" Scam

October 19, 2005

Las Vegas, Nev. - Two men pleaded guilty today to computer fraud for obtaining personal financial information from victims through an e-mail fraud scheme known as "phishing," and using the information to withdraw monies from the victims' bank accounts, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

WESTLEY ROBERT KOSTELEC, age 28, and TED VICENTE STEWART, age 29, both of Las Vegas, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones to one count of Computer Fraud.

According to the plea agreements, in 2004, STEWART and KOSTELEC hacked or intruded into various computers and sent out thousands of email messages under the guise of U.S. Bank, asking the individuals for financial and identity information. This scheme, known as "phishing," convinced victims to provide his or her information via an e-mail to KOSTELEC.

KOSTELEC e-mailed approximately 300,000 e-mails, and approximately 10 victims responded. KOSTELEC obtained victim bank account numbers, pin numbers, credit card numbers, expiration dates, and other personal identity and financial information. KOSTELEC used the information to access their bank and/or credit card accounts to transfer funds to other accounts for withdrawal. KOSTELEC also used a coding device to magnetically encode blank credit cards with fraudulently obtained information allowing him to access automatic teller machines (ATMs) and withdraw money from victim accounts. Money was then transferred to a Nevada State Bank account in the name of a deceased individual, whose ATM card and banking information KOSTELEC and STEWART had stolen. Using this scheme, KOSTELEC and STEWART withdrew approximately $55,000 from the victim accounts.

The defendants each face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Jones on January 9 , 2006 at 3:30 and 4:00 p.m., respectively.

This case is being investigated by Special Agents with the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian J. Quarles.

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