Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

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Term of the week: money mule

May 20, 2015

Money mules are often used to surfeit money or goods on behalf of third parties. The technique is used by a variety of criminals including terrorists, who use the method to transfer money to each other to finance operations. One book defines a money mule as:

A person who transfers money and/or reships valuable, fraudulently-obtained goods. The money mule is often an innocent person who is misled into acting as a go-between in a scam. The instigator is usually a criminal who operates with impunity from another country.

SecurityIntelligence.com reviewed common money mule schemes in an article last fall covering work-from-home, secret shopper, lottery and inheritance schemes:

Money mules are significant in the process of cashing out compromised financial accounts. A money mule is a person who receives and transfers illegally acquired money on behalf of others. Unknowing mules are likely recruited through online job advertisements and spam email. Job titles may include, but are not limited to, “mystery shopper,” “payment processing agent” or “money transfer agent.”

They also may be recruited through romance and lottery scams. Unknowing mules are vulnerable adults who are often older, lonely and potentially financially strapped. Fraudsters will start relationships with these individuals through online dating sites, social networking sites and/or job advertisement sites. The fraudster, acting as a predator, will attempt to cultivate a relationship with the victim based on lies.

Schemes that target unknowing participants are typically focused on employment and relationship scams. At some point, the victims of these schemes (particularly the employment scams) may become knowing, or at least half-suspecting, mules. They realize that they may be part of an illicit scheme but will continue to try to make money because of personal circumstances.

Read the rest of the SecurityIntelligence.com article here.

* Woodward, Jeannette, What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007).

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Covert finance: recommended reading

June 20, 2013
  • Egyptian imam says that zakat is being used to fund fightersmore>>
  • With prepaid cards and fraud, the sky’s the limit… more>>
  • Sick of drug money funding terrorism? Plant science has developed to the point where we could eradicate the coca shrub and opium poppy, if we really wanted to… more>>
  • Sanctions violation:  the president of Panama’s private trading company is shipping 20 containers a month to Iranmore>>
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One Algerian’s financial cyber-crime spree

May 7, 2013

Bank robbery cartoon:

Hacker Hamza Bendelladj’s malware infected personal computers in order to steal the financial credentials of unsuspecting users and sell the data to third parties.  If one man with a computer and an Internet connection can operate a scheme like this, just think of what an enemy state actor could accomplish.

This press release comes to us from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Atlanta Division of the FBI on May 3 (h/t Douglas McNabb):

Algerian National Extradited from Thailand to Face Federal Cyber Crime Charges in Atlanta for SpyEye Virus

ATLANTA—Hamza Bendelladj, an Algerian national also known as Bx1, will be arraigned on federal cyber crime charges for his role in developing, marketing, distributing, and operating the malicious computer virus SpyEye.

“No violence or coercion was used to accomplish this scheme, just a computer and an Internet connection,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Bendelladj’s alleged criminal reach extended across international borders, directly into victims’ homes. In a cyber netherworld, he allegedly commercialized the wholesale theft of financial and personal information through this virus which he sold to other cyber criminals. Cyber criminals, take note—we will find you. This arrest and extradition demonstrates our determination to bring you to justice.”

“Hamza Bendelladj has been extradited to the United States to face charges of controlling and selling a nefarious computer virus designed to pry into computers and extract personal financial information,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman. “The indictment charges Bendelladj and his co-conspirators with operating servers designed to control the personal computers of unsuspecting individuals and aggressively marketing their virus to other international cybercriminals intent on stealing sensitive information. The extradition of Bendelladj to face charges in the United States demonstrates our steadfast determination to bring cyber criminals to justice, no matter where they operate.”

“The FBI has expanded its international partnerships to allow for such extraditions of criminals who know no borders,” stated Mark F. Giuliano, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. “The federal indictment and extradition of Bendelladj should send a very clear message to those international cyber criminals who feel safe behind their computers in foreign lands that they are, in fact, within reach.”

Bendelladj, 24, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia on December 20, 2011. The 23-count indictment charges him with one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and 11 counts of computer fraud. Bendelladj was apprehended at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 5, 2013, while he was in transit from Malaysia to Egypt. The indictment was unsealed on May 1, 2013. Bendelladj was extradited from Thailand to the United States on May 2, 2013, and was arraigned in United States District Court before United States Magistrate Judge Janet F. King.

According to court documents, the SpyEye virus is malicious computer code, or malware, which is designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information, such as online banking credentials, credit card information, usernames, passwords, PINs, and other personally identifying information. The SpyEye virus facilitates this theft of information by secretly infecting victims’ computers, enabling cyber criminals to remotely control the computers through command and control (C&C) servers. Once a computer is infected and under the cyber criminals’ control, a victim’s personal and financial information can be surreptitiously collected using techniques such as “web injects,” which allow cyber criminals to alter the display of webpages in the victim’s browser in order to trick them into divulging personal information related to their financial accounts. The financial data is then transmitted to the cyber criminals’ C&C servers, where criminals use it to steal money from the victims’ financial accounts.

The indictment alleges that from 2009 to 2011, Bendelladj and others developed, marketed, and sold various versions of the SpyEye virus and component parts on the Internet and allowed cyber criminals to customize their purchases to include tailor-made methods of obtaining victims’ personal and financial information. Bendelladj allegedly advertised the SpyEye virus on Internet forums devoted to cyber crime and other criminal activities. In addition, Bendelladj allegedly operated C&C servers, including a server located in the Northern District of Georgia, which controlled computers infected with the SpyEye virus. One of the files on Bendelladj’s C&C server in the Northern District of Georgia allegedly contained information from approximately 253 unique financial institutions.

If convicted, Bendelladj faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud; up to 20 years for each wire fraud count; up to five years for conspiracy to commit computer fraud; up to five or 10 years for each count of computer fraud; and fines of up to $14 million…

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Money scheme: Russian mafia conducts tutorials on how to commit car insurance fraud in U.S.

May 6, 2013

“People would be very shocked to know who is involved,” with the growing number of fraudulent claims, says an insurance industry expert.  Indeed.  From WCCO, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, earlier this year:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Mark Kulda of the Insurance Federation of Minnesota says anyone involved in even a slight car accident could be at risk for insurance fraud.

“You might be driving down the street and maybe have a very minor accident and that could trigger a case where there could be insurance fraud,” Kulda said. “People would be very shocked to know who is involved.”

Organized crime involved in insurance fraud has gone up from 16 claims five years ago to 53 in 2011.

“There’s evidence that the Russian mafia is here in south Minneapolis setting up fake clinics, staging fake accidents, overbilling, billing for accidents that never happened,” he said.

The criminals cash in by making out on staged collisions and fake personal injury claims – getting as much as $40,000 per person.

“There’s direct evidence to show that those fraudsters are coming here to Minn. and setting up shop,” he said…

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Video: examples of car insurance fraud

May 4, 2013

Staged accidents.  The “swoop & squat.”  Fake “paper cases.”  It’s a growth sector and revenue generator for organized crime.  You pay the price in increased premiums.  From KSAT in San Antonio earlier this year:

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Muslim crime syndicate sues accuser for $30m

April 27, 2013

Christian organization targeted in frivolous libel lawsuit by jihadist front group

Jamaat al-Fuqra, an Islamist network operating in North America and Pakistan, has maintained a presence in the U.S. for decades through a commune-style sect known as The Muslims of America, Inc. and a shell company called Professional Security International.  These entities have perpetrated a series of white collar crimes, especially workers compensation fraud, to finance terrorist activities overseas.

The Virginia-based Christian Action Network’s recent publication of a book documenting the history of investigations and successful prosecutions against employees of the syndicate prompted the lawsuit.  CAN reports that Susan Fenger, a fraud examiner who  spearheaded the investigations into MOA in the 1990s, has agreed to testify in CAN’s behalf if the defamation and libel suit goes to trial.

From CAN’s Press Room on Apr. 15:

Muslim Terrorist Group Files $30 Million Lawsuit Against Christian Action Network

By Patti Pierucci

A Muslim terrorist group has filed a lawsuit against Christian Action Network seeking $30 million, following the publication of a book by CAN President Martin Mawyer entitled “Twilight in America.” The suit alleges that Mawyer, co-author Patti A. Pierucci and CAN defamed and libeled the group by publishing information about their crimes and ongoing illegal behavior.

The group, known as The Muslims of America, Inc. (MOA), has operated as a front group for Al Fuqra, which was at one time listed as a terrorist group by the State Department. Al Fuqra members have been convicted of and suspected in dozens of terrorist-related and white-collar crimes in the United States going back decades.

Forensics investigator Susan Fenger—who successfully prosecuted an American Muslim group in the 1990s on charges of terrorism and white-collar crime—has agreed to testify on behalf of Christian Action Network in a lawsuit filed by the same Muslim organization.

In an exclusive interview with Mawyer in 2006, Fenger said she had a $50,000 bounty on her head, placed there by the leader of MOA in Pakistan, Sheikh Mubarik Ali Gilani. The bounty was a form of payback from Gilani because he had to finance the defense of numerous MOA/Fuqra members who were prosecuted as a result of Fenger’s investigation.

Despite the threat to her and the price on her life, she has agreed to testify at the upcoming trial on behalf of CAN to help clear them of any charges.

“Susan Fenger spent years investigating The Muslims of America and its money trail, eventually proving that money scammed from taxpayers was going overseas to fund a known terrorist, Sheikh Gilani,” Mawyer said. “She is a hero because of her relentless pursuit of justice when no one else, not even the FBI, were willing to take on a powerful Muslim group with terrorist ties.”

Mawyer added: “There is such an abundance of official documentation of MOA’s involvement in terrorist activities that I am confident we will prevail in this lawsuit.”

Fenger’s investigation proved without doubt that MOA was a front group for Al Fuqra, and that its members were involved in a myriad of illegal activities. Over the years, members have been convicted of or linked to worker’s compensation fraud, murders, fire-bombing, drug crimes, weapons crimes, and more.

In a January 2013 article posted on MOA’s web site, they admitted that a former member of their group “was secretly the head of the hit team of Ikhwanul Muslimeen (Muslim Brotherhood)” and that former members “were involved in street crimes, drugs, brothels, unemployment fraud, and other offenses.” They claim, however, that they did not know any illegal activity was going on.

1990s Prosecutions

In early 1990, the FBI approached Susan Fenger with a request. Fenger was the chief criminal examiner for the Colorado State Department of Labor and Employment at the time. She was a forensics expert in handwriting, and she knew how to track financial fraud. The FBI agent walked into her office in Denver and handed her a paper with some names on it. They suspected worker’s compensation fraud.

All of the names presented by the FBI were names of Al Fuqra members, said Fenger. “The agent … told my director at the agency that these people were allegedly terrorists.”

The then-governor of Colorado, Roy Romer, was furious.  He appointed Fenger as chief investigator and insisted that she pursue the case above all others.

It was Fenger who put the case together. She was able to prove that Al Fuqra members had been committing white-collar crimes for a decade, most of them involving worker’s compensation fraud in Colorado, in order to fund their terrorist-related activities. The final charges brought, and subsequent convictions, would fall under the heading of racketeering and white-collar crime.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Backroom deal suspected as Turkish agent buys foreclosed Gulen school property

April 6, 2013

In 2012, the Atlanta-area Fulton Science Academy (FSA) borrowed $19 million to buy land to expand their campus.  FSA quickly defaulted, and Wells Fargo sued them.  On Feb. 5, the land was sold at a foreclosure auction for $3.2 million according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Foreclosure auction of Fulton Science Academy property

The winning bidder?  A recently incorporated company called “TruGlobe,” with three Turkish officers, who were somehow able to come up with over $3 million on the day of the foreclosure sale, at which cash or cashier’s checks are normally required as immediate payment.

Both the Fulton Science Academy and TruGlobe have addresses in Alpharetta, Georgia.  The similarities between the entities indicate probable collusion between the Gulen charter school and the winning bidder prior to the sale.  It is worth noting that bid rigging at foreclosure auctions is a growth area for criminal activity.

The website Roots in Alpharetta was the first to expose the “amazing coincidence” of the buyer’s Turkish identity:

Did a Fulton Science Academy benefactor purchase their land?

February 6, 2013

Has a Fulton Science Academy benefactor swooped in to save the embattled school’s construction project? Perhaps.

FSA’s stalled construction project off Westside Parkway was sold in a foreclosure auction this past Tuesday. WSBtv reported this week via twitter that a firm by the name of TruGlobe Inc purchased the land on the courthouse steps for $3.2 million.

TruGlobe is based here in Alpharetta, according to records at the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. Principals with the company appear to be of Turkish descent and have ties to the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce.

Or it could all be an amazing coincidence. This blogger bets that the FSA will pursue a new state charter and attempt to revive their plans for new campus.

Indeed, the registered agent and chief financial officer of TruGlobe is listed as Ahmed Vehbi Ugur, a young man who describes himself as a board member of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast.  Ugur is also registered as the CEO of the Maress Corporation, a Turkish kitchen appliance business with an Atlanta office.

The Fulton Science Academy belongs to a network of troublesome charter schools under the direction of Fethullah Gulen, an activist who seeks to replace the formally secular government in Turkey with a sharia-dominated Islamic caliphate.  Gulen schools have undertaken an influence peddling and crony contract scheme in Texas, improper financial activities in Georgia, were denied a charter in Virginia, and are currently under an FBI investigation for kickbacks.

Fulton County itself has recommended early revocation of FSA’s charter due to educational and financial shortcomings.  The State Board of Education of Georgia may consider such a suspension when it meets this month.

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UPDATE—April 8, 2013:  A colleague has noted that the Turkish parties in this case appear to have acquired a $19 million property for a fire sale price of $3 million, short-changing Wells Fargo and the Development Authority of Alpharetta by $16 million in the process.

Technically, the full $19 million debt owed by Fulton Science Academy has not been extinguished by the foreclosure sale to TruGlobe.  Wells Fargo could have pursued a confirmation of deficiency proceeding against FSA for the $16 million still owed.  However, Read the rest of this entry ?