Feeds

Alleged Romanian phishers (finally) hauled into US courts

Better late than never

The essential guide to IT transformation

Two Romanian men accused of internet scams that defrauded customers of PayPal, Citibank and other financial institutions have been extradited to the United States to face charges.

Petru Bogdan Belbita, 25, of Craiova, Romania, was arrested in Montreal, Canada in January and formally extradited to the US late last week, prosecutors with the US Attorney in New Haven, Connecticut, said Tuesday. A separate defendant, Cornel Ionut Tonita, 28, of Galati, Romania, was arrested in Croatia in July and brought to the US earlier this month.

The two men and five other Romanians were charged in January 2007 with taking part in a sophisticated phishing scam that cost financial institutions at least $150,000. One defendant in that case, Ovidiu-Ionut Nicola-Roman, has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and sentenced to 50 months behind bars.

According to court documents, the men ran a well-organized operation that used a combination of social engineering and computer hacking to dupe recipients into divulging payment card numbers and other sensitive information.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In one attack, they sent an email purporting to come from the Brattleboro Savings & Loan Ass'n that claimed customers' online accounts were temporarily unavailable while administrators upgraded the bank's website. To give the claim credibility, the gang made the site inaccessible by unleashing a denial-of-service attack on it. The email was notable because it contained good English usage and grammar, unlike many phishing come-ons.

It went on to say accounts would be automatically deleted unless customers accessed a secure online database and confirmed their account details. Other financial institutions targeted by the attackers included PayPal, Capital One, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Comerica Bank, LaSalle Bank, US Bank, Wells Fargo, and People's Bank.

Belbita, who sometimes went under the alias Robert Wilson, is also facing charges filed in Los Angeles federal court in a separate phishing case. According to an indictment filed in May 2008, he was caught possessing software tools for carrying out phishing attacks against Bank of America customers. In March 2007, he allegedly participated in a phishing attack that yielded some 206 responses from customers of an unnamed financial service.

The extraditions of Belbita and Tonita demonstrate the up-hill battle prosecutors face in bringing many cybercrooks to justice. Their remote locations, often in countries without strong treaties with the United States, means it can take months or years just to take custody of a defendant. And before that can happen, authorities first must build strong cases against the suspects.

Assistance in the case came from the FBI, Interpol, the Romanian National Police, the Croatian police, and Canadian police, among others.

If convicted on all the charges brought in New Haven, the men face a maximum of 37 years in prison and fines of 1.5 million. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Ice cream headache as black hat hacks sack Dairy Queen
I scream, you scream, we all scream 'DATA BREACH'!
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
Oz fed police in PDF redaction SNAFU
Give us your metadata, we'll publish your data
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
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?