Pizza delivery man cops to life in DarkMarket

Ran 'eBay for criminals' from net cafe

A former London pizza delivery man faces a 10-year prison sentence after admitting he helped found the notorious DarkMarket forum for computer crime, several news sites reported.

Renukanth Subramaniam, a 33-year-old Sri Lanka-born man from North London, pleaded guilty at Blackfriars Crown Court in London to conspiracy to defraud and furnishing false information. Authorities say he joined DarkMarket on its first day of operation in late 2005 and helped build it into an online resource for payment card fraud, with a thriving exchange for buying and selling stolen data and its own secure payment system.

DarkMarket operated for three years and had about 2,500 members at its peak. To be accepted, candidates had to provide details of 100 compromised cards to reviewers, who would then verify their validity. Members were required to adhere to a strict code of conduct that forbid foul language and pornography and demanded a kind of honor among thieves.

Subramaniam worked as a site administrator until October 2006, when he was forcibly demoted over allegations of poor security hygiene. He continued as a reviewer until June 2007 and was arrested the following month when he turned himself in to police in Wembley.

DarkMarket was shuttered in September 2008 following the arrest of another site admin who called himself Cha0. According to news reports, the Turkish hacker was known as a supplier of high-quality skimmers for payment card fraud and was eventually accused of kidnapping and torturing a Turkish police informant.

A month later, another DarkMarket admin with the handle Master Splynter was outted as senior cybercrime agent J Keith Mularski of the FBI. The website, it turned out, had been secretly run from an FBI facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Also on Thursday, a second DarkMarket associate pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud. John McHugh, 69, of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was alleged to be an experienced payment card fraudster who went by the online moniker Devilman.

According to authorities, Subramaniam ran DarkMarket from the Java Bean internet cafe in Wembley, where he spent several hours a day. His handle, JiLsi, was adorned with an avatar of a pirate with an eye patch. Police said he owned three homes, but had no fixed address, crashing at friends' residences and never staying at any one place for long.

The men reportedly face a maximum of ten years at sentencing, which which will take place at an undetermined date. More coverage from The Independent and The Telegraph are here and here. ®

Sponsored: 10 ways wire data helps conquer IT complexity