Wallingford Man Admits to Stealing Bitcoins in Dark Web Phishing Scheme
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that MICHAEL RICHO, 35, of Wallingford, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty today in Hartford federal court to fraud and money laundering offenses in connection with a scheme to steal bitcoins in an online phishing scheme.
According to the court documents and statements made in court, RICHO engaged in an online phishing scheme to steal bitcoins from individuals on the dark web. Bitcoins are a form of electronic currency, and online marketplaces on the dark web typically accept them as a payment method.
In pleading guilty, RICHO admitted that he posted fake links to online marketplaces on dark web forums. The links directed individuals to a fake login page that looked like the real login pages for the various online marketplaces. When individuals attempted to log in, RICHO stole his or her username and password. Once he had an individual’s username and password, RICHO monitored the individual’s bitcoin balance at the real marketplace. If the individual later deposited bitcoins with the real marketplace, RICHO withdrew the bitcoins before the individual could spend them and caused the stolen bitcoins to be deposited into his own bitcoin wallet. RICHO then sold the stolen bitcoins to others in exchange for U.S. currency, which was deposited into bank accounts that RICHO controlled or was provided to him through Green Dot Cards, Western Union transfers, and MoneyGram transfers.
In total, RICHO obtained more than $365,000 through his scheme. He also had more than 10,000 stolen usernames and passwords saved on his computer.
RICHO pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and one count of money laundering, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on September 28, 2017.
As part of his plea agreement, RICHO has agreed to forfeit various computers and electronic devices, an assortment of precious coins and metals, and up to $365,000.
Since his arrest on October 5, 2016, RICHO has been released on bond with computer monitoring conditions.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.