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NEWARK, N.J. – A Newark, New Jersey, man today admitted selling fake driver’s licenses through an online shop and filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen identity information, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Alexis Scott Carthens, 38, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to a an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with authentication features and one count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From October 2012 through August 2014, Ricardo Rosario, 33, of Jersey City, New Jersey, with the assistance of Carthens and Abraham Corcino, 34, of Jersey City, sold fake driver’s licenses over the Internet. In connection with their illegal operation, the defendants ran a website that was available at “fakeidstore.co” and “fakedlstore.com.”
A number of the fake driver’s licenses sold by Rosario and other conspirators were used by criminal actors in connection with “cash out” schemes where stolen credit card information, usually obtained through hacking or ATM skimming operations, was encoded on to counterfeit credit cards and used to steal cash from victims’ accounts.
The website sold fake New Jersey, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin driver’s licenses, and the website boasted that the licenses had “scannable barcodes” and “real” holographic overlays. The price for each fake driver’s license was approximately $150, but the website offered bulk pricing for orders of 10 or more.
The website allowed its users to pay by bitcoin, a cryptographic-based digital currency, or MoneyPak, a type of prepaid payment card that could be purchased at retail stores. The “FAQ” section of the website indicated that orders would be received approximately one to two days after payment was received and described the website’s policy with respect to returns: “No Refunds. No snitching.”
Rosario created and ran the website. Corcino and Carthens assisted Rosario by creating and mailing the fake driver’s licenses purchased through the website. Corcino also maintained an Instagram account to promote the website.
At today’s plea hearing, Carthens admitted that his role was to create the driver’s licenses and to mail them to the website’s customers. Carthens also admitted that he believed that some of the website’s clients were using the fake driver’s licenses to commit credit card fraud.
Carthens also admitted to his involvement in a separate scheme, spanning from December 2012 through November 2013, to use stolen personally identifiable information to steal tax refund money from the government. At today’s plea hearing, Carthens admitted using information stolen from a medical lab to file false and fraudulent tax returns. Carthens also admitted to working with at least one other conspirator, who assisted Carthens by providing him with email addresses and physical addresses to receive the fraudulently claimed tax refund money.
The count of conspiracy to commit fraud in connection with authentication features carries a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The count of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Assistant Inspector in Charge James R. Buthorn; and special agents of IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew S. Pak of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the Economic Crimes Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Ward, Acting Chief of the office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
The charges against Rosario and Corcino are still pending. The charges and allegations against them are merely accusations and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Wanda M. Akin Esq., Newark