Online Trojan War Ends With Criminal Pleas In Bank Accounts Theft

September 26, 2011

This is a saga worthy of the title the "Trojan War." For now, at least, Troy is in flames, the Greeks have won - or, in more modern parlance, the Feds got their last guilty plea.

Zeus Trojan

According to federal prosecutors, court documents, and guilty pleas, cyber attacks were launched from Eastern Europe using the "Zeus Trojan" malware program, which was launched through the use of emails generally transmitted to small businesses and municipalities in the United States. When opened by the recipient, the Zeus Trojan embedded itself into the user's computer and activated a keystroke-program that recorded account numbers, passwords, and codes when the user logged on to their bank accounts.

The next phase of this war was the criminal use of the stolen bank account information to effect illegal transfers, usually thousands of dollars at a clip, to so-called "receiving accounts," which were controlled by the co-conspirators in this operation. The receiving accounts were previously set up by what is referred to as a "money mule organization," whose purpose was to retrieve the funds in the compromised bank accounts and transfer them overseas.

By no means a small undertaking, the money mule organization recruited many individuals who had entered the United States on student visas. The criminal organization provided these recruits with fake foreign passports and instructions as to how to open false-name accounts at U.S. banks. These fictitious accounts were used to receive the stolen funds obtained through the use of the Zeus Trojan; and, thereafter, these same accounts issued instructions to transfer the stolen funds overseas - or, in some instances, the recruits would physically withdraw the funds and transport them overseas as cash.

Long Arm of the Law

Criminal charges were filed in September 2010 against 37 defendants. To date, two defendants entered into deferred prosecution agreements, eight remain fugitives, and 27 have pled guilty.

On September 23, 2011, Nikolay Garifulin, 22, of Volgograd, Russia, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and possess false identification. Scheduled to be sentenced in January 2012, Garifulin faces a total maximum penalty of 45 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to possess false identification documents charges.

Final Box Score

Two leaders of the mule organization have pled guilty (in addition to Garifulin) and sentenced (date in parentheses):

KASUM ADIGYUZELOV (May 13, 2011): 48 months in prison.
DORIN CODREANU (July 8, 2011): 20 months in prison.

Eighteen money mules pled guilty and sentenced:

LILIAN ADAM (April 28, 2011)): time served after five months and 24 days in prison.
KONSTANTIN AKOBIROV (March 3, 2011)): 8 months in prison.
JAMAL BEYROUTI (August 4, 2011)): 36 months in prison.
NATALIA DEMINA (December 23, 2010): time served after four months and 12 days in prison.
ALEXANDER FEDOROV (January 5, 2011)): 10 months in prison.
ADEL GATAULLIN (February 16, 2011)): 15 months in prison.
ILYA KARASEV (June 24, 2011): 10 months in prison.
ALEXANDER KIREEV (February 14, 2011): 12 months and one day in prison.
YULIA KLEPIKOVA (March 17, 2011): 7 months in prison.
MAXIM MIROSHNICHENKO (February 28, 2011): time served after four months and 29 days in prison.
MARINA MISYURA (May 25, 2011): time served after seven months and 25 days in prison.
VICTORIA OPINCA (January 25, 2011): time served after three months and 26 days in prison.
MARGARITA PAKHMOVA (April 5, 2011): time served after six months and nine days in prison.
STANISLAV RASTORGUEV (July 11, 2011): 12 months and one day in prison.
DMITRY SAPRUNOV (April 6, 2011): time served after six months and two days in prison.
JULIA SIDORENKO (December 9, 2010): time served after two months and nine days in prison.
ALINA TURUTA (February 25, 2011): time served after four months and 26 days in prison.
ANTON YUFERITSYN (June 28, 2010): 11 months in prison.

Six other defendants have pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing:

RUSLAN KOVTANYUK (January 7, 2011)
SABINA RAFIKOVA (January 3, 2011)
ALMIRA RAKHMATULINA (September 25, 2011)
JULIA SHPIRKO (August 19, 2011)