Romanian Citizen Involved In Phishing Scheme Sentenced To More Than Six Years In Federal Prison
Deirdre M. Daly, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, and Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that DRAGOS NICOLAE DRAGHICI, 28, a citizen of Romania, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven to 78 months of imprisonment for participating in an extensive Internet “phishing” scheme.
A phishing scheme uses the Internet to target large numbers of unwary individuals, using fraud and deceit to obtain private personal and financial information such as names, addresses, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Phishing schemes often work by sending out large numbers of counterfeit e-mail messages that are made to appear as if they originated from legitimate banks, financial institutions or other companies. The fraudulent email messages ask individuals to click on a hyperlink contained in the email message, which would take the individual to a counterfeit site on the Internet that purports to be the Internet site of the particular bank, financial institution or company. At the counterfeit Internet site, the individual is then asked to enter information such as the individual’s name, address and credit or debit card numbers.
According to court documents and statements made in court, in June 2005 a resident of Madison, Conn., contacted the FBI in New Haven about a suspicious email that she had received that purported to be from Connecticut-based People’s Bank. The email stated that the recipient’s online banking access profile had been locked and instructed the recipient to click on a link to a web page where the recipient could enter information to “unlock” his or her profile. The web page appeared to originate from People’s Bank, but, as the investigation revealed, was actually hosted on a compromised computer in Minnesota. Any personal identifying and financial information provided by the individual would be sent by email to individuals in Romania, or to a “collector” account, which was an email account used to receive and collect the information obtained through phishing.
DRAGHICI and others were part of a loose-knit conspiracy of individuals from Craiova, Romania, and neighboring areas that shared files, tools, and stolen information obtained through phishing. The co-conspirators used and shared a number of collector accounts, which contained thousands of email messages that contained credit or debit card numbers, expiration dates, CVV codes, PIN numbers, and other personal identification information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The co-conspirators then used the personal and financial information to access bank accounts and lines of credit and to withdraw funds without authorization, often from ATMs in Romania.
The investigation revealed that DRAGHICI was involved in phishing from at least 2004 through 2010, harvesting email addresses, spamming, setting up counterfeit websites and collecting stolen data. DRAGHICI identified himself as “a hacker,” and he was involved in obtaining unauthorized access to computers that could be used for spamming and for hosting counterfeit websites. Analysis of DRAGHICI’s email accounts revealed more than 6,000 stolen debit or credit card account numbers.
In addition to People’s Bank, financial institutions and companies targeted by the defendants included Citibank, Capital One, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Comerica Bank, Regions Bank, LaSalle Bank, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo & Co., eBay and PayPal.
This investigation has resulted in criminal charges against 19 Romanian citizens. On January 18, 2007, a grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging seven defendants with various offenses stemming from this scheme. On November 10, 2010, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment charging an additional 12 defendants, including DRAGHICI.
The first three defendants to face charges were extradited from Bulgaria, Croatia and Canada. DRAGHICI and seven other defendants were extradited from Romania following the ratification in 2010 of an amended treaty on mutual legal assistance between Romania and the United States.
On December 3, 2012, DRAGHICI pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with access devices.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven, Conn.
Acting U.S. Attorney Daly and Special Agent in Charge Mertz also acknowledged the critical assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of International Affairs, the FBI Legal Attaché in Bucharest, Interpol, the Romanian National Police and the United States Marshals Service.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Edward Chang.
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