Belarusian Accused of Running an 'Online Bazaar' for ID Thieves

This was written by Michael Cheek on Tuesday,

A man who allegedly created and ran an online business aiding more than 2,000 identity thieves in more than 5,000 fraud incidents was indicted in New York yesterday on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment unsealed Monday in Manhattan federal court, Belarusian national Dmitry M. Naskovets in 2007 created, an online business intended to assist identity thieves in exploiting stolen financial information. The website was designed to bypass security measures implemented by financial institutions. These security measures, for example, require individuals looking to make transfers or withdrawals from accounts, or to conduct other financial transactions to verify certain information over the phone. Representatives at financial institutions and businesses are trained to make sure that individuals claiming to be account holders match the account holder's profile: If an account holder is an American female, the screener needs to ensure that the caller speaks English and sounds like a female.

Through the website, Naskovets and fellow Belarusian co-conspirator Sergey Semashko provided the services of English- and German-speaking individuals to criminals who had stolen account and biographical information to beat security-screening processes. Specifically, those English and German speakers posed as authorized account holders and called financial institutions and other businesses to conduct or confirm fraudulent withdrawals, transactions, or other account activity on behalf of the website users, who were identity thieves. Using information provided by the identity thieves over the website that was hosted on a computer in Lithuania, the fraudulent callers confirmed unauthorized withdrawals or transfers from bank accounts, unblocked accounts, or changed addresses or phone numbers associated with an account so it could be accessed by the identity thieves.

Naskovets was arrested by Czech law-enforcement authorities April 15, 2010, at the request of the United States pursuant to bilateral treaties between the countries. Also April 15, 2010, in a joint operation, Belarusian law enforcement authorities arrested Semashko in Belarus, and Lithuanian law-enforcement authorities seized the computers on which the website was hosted.

In addition, in New York, the FBI simultaneously seized the website domain name pursuant to a seizure warrant issued by United States District Judge Lewis A Kaplan, to whom the case is assigned. Semashko was arrested April 15 by Belarusian authorities for related criminal conduct.

"As alleged, Dmitry Naskovets's website was essentially an online bazaar for dangerous identity thieves," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. "His website was especially dangerous because it allegedly was specifically designed to bypass the usual security measures that bank and business customers have come to rely on."

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Joseph M. Demarest, Jr. said online crime affects everyone by reducing the public's confidence in the Internet, and the losses affect all businesses and customers with increased costs.

"Cyber crime has no boundaries, and the FBI will continue to work with our international partners to pursue these criminals wherever they may try to hide," he said.

If convicted on all three counts, Naskovets faces a maximum sentence of 39 years plus six months in prison.


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