West African computer hacker sentenced to Federal Prison
ATLANTA - Eric Donys Simeu, a/k/a Martell Collins, a citizen of Cameroon extradited from France, has been sentenced to four years, ten months in federal prison for a series of “phishing campaigns” which targeted clients of Global Distribution Systems.
“This case shows the global reach of our cyber investigation and prosecution capabilities,” said U.S. Attorney John Horn. “The great work of our domestic and international law enforcement partners brought a cybercriminal operating from the streets of West Africa to justice for seeking to harm one of our district’s corporate citizens, among others.”
“The sentencing of international cyber hacker Eric Donys Simeu to federal prison, as well as his arrest abroad and the resulting and protracted international extradition that brought him back to the U.S., is a direct result of the hard work and persistence of numerous FBI investigators and federal prosecutors working with their international partners. The cooperation between law enforcement, both domestic and international, and the victim companies targeted, as seen in this case, is an example of what it takes to investigate, apprehend, and present for prosecution those international criminals who feel that they are beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
“This sentencing sends a strong message that DSS is committed to making sure those who commit cybercrimes, identity theft and fraud, face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Richard Ingram, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, Washington, D.C. Field Office. “Diplomatic Security’s strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and presence around the world are essential to our success in partnering with international law enforcement, investigating, apprehending and returning offenders to the United States to face justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Eric Simeu was responsible for a series of “phishing campaigns” which targeted customers of Global Distribution System (“GDS”) companies from approximately July 2011 to September 2014. The GDS companies impacted by Simeu’s criminal conduct included Travelport, which maintains a major presence in Atlanta, and Sabre, which is headquartered in Southlake, Texas.
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 used to authenticate their identity and facilitate the issuance of airline tickets on GDS servers.
Simeu’s phishing campaigns targeted customers of Travelport and Sabre, causing phishing emails to be delivered to their customers for the purpose of obtaining and stealing their unique log-in credentials. Simeu and others used the stolen log-in credentials to access the servers of Travelport and Sabre and cause the issuance of fraudulent airline tickets. Simeu and others then 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, Eric Donys Simeu, 32, 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 a fraudulently issued airline ticket in the name of his alias, Martell Collins, utilizing a fraudulent United Kingdom passport under the same name. A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned an indictment against Simeu on September 23, 2014, and Simeu was extradited from France on May 19, 2016. Simeu had been in French custody since his arrest in September 2014, pending completion of extradition proceedings.
Simeu pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on December 13, 2016. On May 25, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., sentenced Simeu to four years, ten months in prison, and ordered him to pay $162,146 in restitution to Travelport.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven D. Grimberg and Trial Attorney Peter Roman with the U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs 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.