Haitian Man Charged In $200,000 “Email Takeover” Scam Against Victim In Saratoga, Calif.
SAN JOSE – Maxito Pean was indicted by a federal grand jury today for stealing money through an email takeover scam and laundering those funds by “layering” them through multiple accounts, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Thomas McMahon, and Santa Clara County Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team Task Force (REACT) Project Director Michael Sterner.
Pean, 51, of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four substantive counts of wire fraud. He was also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, four substantive counts of laundering funds to conceal their source, and six counts of engaging in financial transactions using criminal proceeds.
According to the indictment, Pean received funds as a result of an email takeover scam, in which a victim was sent a “phishing” email to capture his username and account password. The phishing email was designed to trick the victim into clicking on a link that delivered him to a fraudulent website created to look like its legitimate counterpart. When the victim logged into the fraudulent website, his username and password for that account were captured, allowing an imposter to access the victim’s account, review its contents, and send and receive e-mails posing as the victim.
The indictment further alleges the fraud began when an imposter, who had gained access to the email account of a victim living in Saratoga, Calif., posed as the victim to send an email directing a representative at Deutsche Bank in San Francisco to transfer funds from the victim’s account. Believing the instructions had come from her client, the representative wired $233,200 from the victim’s account to an account held in the name of “Southeastern Capital Group Inc.” in Lauderhill, Fla. That account was opened only a month before the transfer, by a homeless man in Florida whom the indictment alleges was acting as a “money mule” in return for a small cash payment. From there, the funds went to another account, opened by a different “money mule,” held in the name of “Meade Financial Services.” Only after passing through those two accounts did the funds make their way to the defendant.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349 and 1343, respectively, is 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or gross loss from the transaction, whichever is higher. The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit money laundering and money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(h) and 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is higher. The maximum penalty for engaging in monetary transactions using property derived from specified unlawful activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1957, is ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the value of the property involved, whichever is higher.
The prosecution is the result of an investigation initiated by the REACT in San Jose. REACT partnered with IRS Criminal Investigation – Oakland Field Office to expand the scope of the investigation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations – West Palm Beach, and IRS Criminal Investigation – Jacksonville, Fla., also provided valuable support. Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Elise Etter.
Please note that an indictment contains only allegations. As with all defendants, Maxito Pean must be presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.