News and Press Releases

Men Sentenced To One Year In Prison For Unauthorized Withdrawals From Bank Accounts Through "Phishing" Scam

March 13, 2006

Las Vegas, Nev. – Two men have been sentenced to a year in prison for obtaining personal financial information from persons through an e-mail fraud scheme known as "phishing," and using the information to withdraw monies from their bank accounts, announced Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada.

WESTLEY ROBERT KOSTELEC, age 28, and TED VICENTE STEWART, age 30, both of Las Vegas, were sentenced on Monday, March 13, 2006, to one year plus one day in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $3,704 in restitution. They pleaded guilty in October to one felony 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 were released on a personal recognizance bond and must surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons no later than May 15, 2006.

This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian J. Quarles.

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