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Press Release

Fresno County Couple Pleads Guilty to Hacking Database Containing People’s Identities and Selling Them on the Dark Web for $160,000 in Digital Currency

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Former Navy couple, Marquis Hooper, 32, and Natasha Chalk, 39, of Selma, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy where they hacked a database that contained personally identifiable information (PII) and sold it on the dark web for $160,000 in digital currency, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Hooper also pleaded guilty to underlying wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

According to court records, when Hooper was a chief petty officer and Chalk was a reservist in the Navy, Hooper opened an account with a private company that maintains a database containing PII for millions of people. The company restricts access to the database to businesses and government agencies that have a demonstrated, lawful need for the PII. Beginning in August 2018, Hooper opened an online account with the company by falsely representing that the Navy needed him to perform background checks on sailors. After Hooper opened his account, he added Chalk. The couple used Hooper’s access to the company’s database to obtain the PII of over 9,000 people. They then sold the PII on the dark web for $160,000.

At least some of the individuals to whom Hooper and Chalk sold people’s PII used it to commit further crimes. For example, one individual used the PII to create a driver’s license using a victim’s information and then tried to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account. The bank declined the transaction.

In December 2018, Hooper’s account was closed for suspected fraud. Thereafter, Hooper and Chalk enlisted an unindicted co-conspirator to regain access to the database. Under Hooper’s direction and with the promise of $2,500 for each month that the account was opened, the co-conspirator tried to open an account. Hooper created a fake contract that identified a further identity theft victim as a Navy supply officer authorizing the transaction, and when the company asked for verification, Hooper provided a fake driver’s license for the victim and a fake letter from a commanding officer approving the transaction. In the end, the company decided not to open the account.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.

Hooper and Chalk are scheduled to be sentenced July 24, 2023, by U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Thurston. They face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy convictions. Hooper also faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the wire fraud conviction, and two years in prison, consecutive to other counts, for the aggravated identity theft conviction. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated March 6, 2023

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft