Feeds

Guns, drugs, stolen identities - portrait of a phisher

The demise of 'cashout5050'

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A California man has admitted he was part of an international phishing ring and stole tens of thousands of identities so he could support his methamphetamine habit.

Tien Truong Nguyen, 30, of Sacramento, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to five felonies, including conspiracy, access-device fraud and possession, aggravated identity theft, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His confession came the same day his case was scheduled to go to trial in federal court in Sacramento.

Over a 15-month period beginning in October 2005, Nguyen and two cohorts used identities stolen from users of PayPal and other financial services to fraudulently obtain merchandise worth about $200,000 from Wal-Mart stores located in Northern California, according to court documents. The man, who sometimes went by the online moniker "cashout5050," told one detective investigating the crime his meth habit "gave him the drive to do identity theft."

When he was arrested at his home, his computer contained tens of thousands of stolen identities, templates for constructing phishing sites, and chat logs in which he discussed ways to convert stolen identities into store merchandise. He also had more than 40 fraudulently obtained prepaid gift cards, more than 40 counterfeit credit cards, and a counterfeit California driver's license with his picture on it.

Investigators also found a Remington 870 Magnum Express shotgun that stood up vertically behind Nguyen's computer stand, some near-by ammunition, and a feed from a complex surveillance system.

The scheme began to unravel when a Wal-Mart fraud investigator got an anonymous tip that two of Nguyen's alleged co-conspirators, Stefani Ruland and Ryan Price, had a garage full of items taken from the one of the retailer's outlets. The pair later confessed they obtained the goods using stolen personal identifying information they got from Nguyen.

Ruland and Price were able to obtain fraudulent credit cards by using "instant credit kiosks" located inside Wal-Mart stories, according to court documents. They would input names and other details from the stolen identities into the machines and often receive a temporary document with credit limits as high as $2,000. The kiosks were provided by GE Capital.

Ruland is serving "a long prison sentence" as a result of the investigation, according to court documents. The documents didn't specify the status of Price.

Nguyen told authorities he worked with other phishers located in Romania. Phishing templates found on his computer were designed to make it easy to set up websites that spoofed online services offered by eBay, Fairwinds Credit Union of Florida, Heritage Bank of Olympia, Washington, and the Honolulu City and County Employees Credit Union in Hawaii, among others.

Nguyen was previously convicted of three felonies, including writing fraudulent checks. He has been detained since he was arrested in January 2007.

Nguyen faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each credit card offense, 10 years for the firearms possession, and seven years for the other charges. He may also be required to pay fines and restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for November 19. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management
How using vulnerability assessments to identify exploitable weaknesses and take corrective action can reduce the risk of hackers finding your site and attacking it.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.