Computer Hacker Extradited from France
ATLANTA - Eric Donys Simeu, a/k/a Martell Collins, a citizen of Cameroon, has been arraigned on federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud and access device fraud. Simeu was indicted by a federal grand jury in Atlanta on September 23, 2014.
“Cybercrime is borderless, but increasingly, so too are our law enforcement capabilities,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “With the cooperation of France and our international law enforcement partners, we were able to bring to justice a wanted fugitive who was allegedly committing cyber fraud that affected U.S. companies from the streets of West Africa.”
“Those who target US companies and citizens through cyber attacks and spear phishing emails can no longer be confident they will remain anonymous and be protected by geographic boundaries. The arrest and extradition of Eric Simeu is the result of a multi-national effort led by the FBI, which demonstrates the benefits of global cooperation among international law enforcement and the private sector. This arrest and extradition serves a strong deterrent to those targeting the computer networks of US companies and US citizens. It should also serve as a reminder to the public to be vigilant and aware they are frequently targeted through fraudulent emails seeking to steal their personal information,” said J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Eric Simeu is allegedly responsible for a series of “phishing campaigns” which targeted customers of Global Distribution System (“GDS”) companies from approximately July 2011 to September 2014.
A “phishing campaign” is the act of sending targeted emails to individuals for the purpose of acquiring usernames and passwords. The emails masquerade as an official communication from a legitimate company to gain the trust of the recipient and deceive them into providing protected information. GDS companies provide travel booking services to travel agencies and travel-related websites. Airline tickets that are issued from sources other than air carriers themselves are generally processed through a GDS company. Customers of GDS companies, such as representatives from a travel agency or travel-related website, are issued unique login credentials that are utilized to authenticate their identity and facilitate the issuance of airline tickets on GDS servers.
In this instance, Simeu’s alleged phishing campaigns targeted customers of two GDS Companies – one with its principal U.S. operations in Atlanta, Georgia, and another headquartered in Southlake, Texas. Simeu allegedly caused phishing emails to be delivered to customers of these GDS companies for the purpose of obtaining and stealing their unique log-in credentials. Simeu and others allegedly used the stolen log-in credentials to access the servers of the two GDS companies and cause the issuance of fraudulent airline tickets. Simeu and others then allegedly sold these airline tickets to customers, mostly in West Africa, for fractions of the actual cost, or used them for personal travel. The value of the fraudulently issued airline tickets exceeded $2 million.
On September 3, 2014, Simeu was arrested by French law enforcement pursuant to a federal criminal complaint issued out of the Northern District of Georgia. At the time of his arrest, Simeu was traveling from Casablanca, Morocco, to Paris, France, on an alleged fraudulently issued airline ticket in the name of his alias, Martell Collins, utilizing a fraudulent United Kingdom passport under the same name.
Eric Donys Simeu, a/k/a Martell Collins, 32, a citizen of Cameroon, was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard. A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned an indictment against Simeu on September 23, 2014. Simeu has been in French custody since his arrest in September 2014, pending completion of extradition proceedings.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department Diplomatic Security Service.
Assistant United States Attorney Steven D Grimberg and Trial Attorney Peter Roman with the U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided valuable assistance.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.