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DarkMarket founder jailed for five years

Digital underground kingpin sent down

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The founder of a notorious underground carding forum was jailed for four years and eight months on Friday.

Renukanth Subramaniam, 33, set up DarkMarket, an eBay for cybercrooks where fraudsters and crackers could buy and sell stolen bank log-ins, credit card details and skimmers. The scheme became unstuck in 2008 after the site was infiltrated by an FBI agent who posed as a criminal hacker and gained a senior role running the site under the alias MastrSplyntr in an undercover operation that ultimately led to 60 arrests worldwide including Subramaniam (aka JiLsi).

Prosecutor Sandip Patel described DarkMarket as a "Facebook for fraudsters", the BBC reports.

Subramaniam, a former pizza man, who ran DarkMarket from an internet cafe in north London, admitted conspiracy to defraud along with five separate mortgage fraud offences.

John McHugh, 66, of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was also jailed on Friday at the same sentencing hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court. McHugh (aka 'Devilman') was sent down for two years after he was convicted of selling stolen credit card details on DarkMarket.

UK investigations into DarkMarket were led by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), whose explanation of the underground forum sheds light on the workings of the underground economy.

DarkMarket provided a sophisticated, invitation-only service for criminals to buy and sell compromised credit card information and anything else they needed to commit financial crime. It also offered training in fraud techniques, including online bank account takeovers, and money laundering. There was a business-like hierarchy, with an elite core in the management positions. Further down the hierarchy, reviewers would assess potential new members for suitability. At the bottom end of the ladder, new members would have to prove their criminal credentials and ability before they were accepted as full members.

Police are attempting to track down and seize Subramaniam and McHugh's illgotten gains.

Sharon Lemon, deputy director of Soca, explained: “A financial investigation is now underway into the money these men made from their crimes. It’s hard to put a figure on the sums involved now, but we believe that Subramaniam suffered a personal loss of £100,000 in one go linked to deals on a single lost memory stick.

"SOCA is determined to recover what it can from them. Things don’t end with a conviction.” ®

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