International Cybercriminal Sentenced To 30 Months’ Imprisonment For “Grandparent Scams”
Long-Time Cybercriminal Targeted Elderly Victims by Falsely Claiming a Grandchild Was in Jail and Needed Money Immediately
Earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, Hani Kabbara, a Canadian citizen, was sentenced by United States District Judge Margo K. Brodie to 30 months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Kabbara was originally arrested and charged in August 2016, after traveling to the United States from Canada, and pleaded guilty in April 2017. In addition, as part of the sentence the court ordered Kabbara to pay $8,000 in restitution.
The sentence was announced by Bridget M. Rohde, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI) and James Robnett, Special Agent-in-Charge, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office (IRS-CI).
“As part of an international cybercrime scheme, Kabbara and his co-conspirators deceived elderly victims in the United States by, for example, falsely claiming that a grandchild was in jail and needed money for bail,” stated Acting United States Attorney Rohde. “Today’s sentence sends the message that predators like Kabbara, even those who hide behind the anonymity of the internet and online monikers, will be brought to justice for their criminal acts.”
“Kabbara believed he was safe from U.S. laws in Canada and devised a series of schemes using social engineering and the services of other cybercriminals to rob innocent elderly victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney. “Today’s sentencing shows that international cybercriminals are never beyond the reach of U.S. authorities who are engaged with their international law enforcement partners.”
“Today’s announcement highlights IRS Special Agents’ intense focus on the pursuit of identity thieves and cyber criminals,” stated IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Robnett. “Kabbara took part in an elaborate scheme driven by greed and a blatant disregard for the damage inflicted on innocent victims. Rest assured that those involved in this criminal behavior will be held fully accountable.”
As alleged in the indictment and described in court filings, between February 2014 and August 2016, the defendant ran a sophisticated scheme that used social engineering and overseas call centers to steal from unsuspecting, elderly victims in the United States. Kabbara and his co-conspirators used various threats and deceit to demand payment from his victims, for example, telling them that a grandchild had been arrested and the victim needed to send money immediately in order for the grandchild to be released from jail. Kabbara and his co-conspirators demanded money in the form of MoneyPaks, which are vouchers that can be loaded with cash and then used to fund prepaid debit cards. The defendant sold the MoneyPaks in online criminal forums and, with his co-conspirators, transferred the funds onto prepaid debit cards, which themselves were obtained using stolen identities and were later cashed at ATM machines. The defendant and his network of co-conspirators communicated with each other anonymously in cyberspace through dark web forums and encrypted chat applications, then used a crew of “workers,” in the New York area to withdraw funds from the debit cards, consolidate the cash and send it back to the defendant in Canada.
In connection with his guilty plea, the defendant also admitted to attempting to participate in a massive tax refund fraud using stolen personally identifiable information of millions of victims, and to his participation in a 2011 global cyber heist in which he and his co-conspirators used hacked account information to drain ATMs around the world of more than $10 million.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s National Security & Cybercrime Section. Assistant United States Attorney Una A. Dean is in charge of the prosecution.
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 16-CR-472 (MKB)