FBI hot on the trail of trio who made $100 million installing pesky, phony software to cure their own virus infection.
Cybercrime culprits indicted - one's a Swede!
Some call it "malware," others call it "scareware," but whoever has been unlucky enough to get a virus infection on their computer that pops up repeatedly on the screen and persistently refuses to go away unless money is sent to buy the "cure" will be pleased to know that three men have been indicted by the FBI in Chicago for pulling off such a cybercrime scheme that is estimated to have bagged them at least $100 million.
”These defendants allegedly preyed on innocent computer users, exploiting their fraudulently induced fears for personal gain,” stated Robert D. Grant, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago office, in a news release.
Swedes might not be so proud to know that one of the three culprits - all of whom are still on the run from the international lawmen - was a 31 year old man from Ängelholm, Sweden, Björn Daniel Alexander Sundin, born on Aug. 7, 1978. Another of the trio is a 40-year-old naturalized American, Shaileshkumar P. Jain, originally believed to be from India. The third and youngest is an American, 26-year-old James Reno from Amelia, Ohio.
The enormous Internet swindle that they masterminded bilked as many as a million computer users in sixty nations by installing software which told users that their computer was infected with a virus, Trojan horse or other serious computer error that could only be fixed by using their credit card to buy software that cost from $30 to $70 from their firm.
The three operated from December 2006 through October 2008 using a Ukraine based company that was incorporated in Belize, Innovative Marketing Inc., and selling computer security products such as Win Fixer, Win Antivirus, Drive Cleaner, Error Safe, and XP Antivirus, etc., to allegedly solve the problems... and cease the endless appearance of their advertising on users' display screens.
Although their company was closed down last year after the Federal Trade Commission first filed a complaint against these scam artists in Maryland on Dec. 2, 2008, it was not until Wednesday, May 26, that a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted them.
The indictment charges Sundin and Jain each with 24 counts of wire fraud, and Reno with 12 counts of wire fraud. Each individual count of fraud carries a potential prison term 20 years, a $250,000 fine, plus restitution of all funds that they gathered. Each was also charged with one count of computer fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of about $100 million and all money held in an account at Swedbank located in Kiev, Ukraine. According to the indictment, money was first deposited in bank accounts around the world that the culprits controlled, and then later transferred to Swedbank, which is a subsidiary of the international bank that has its headquarters in Sweden.
Sundin and Jain also allegedly created at least seven fictitious advertising agencies that contacted website media companies pretending to act as advertising brokers on behalf of well known legitimate firms. The unauthorized Internet ads defrauded the victimized firms of at least $85,000 in unpaid fees.
Even worse, the phony Internet ads that were placed on the websites contained invisible computer programming that "hijacked" the Internet browsers of visiting victims and then redirected these users' computers automatically into websites controlled by Sundin and Jain and from which the "scareware" was installed to demand payments. The fictitious ad agencies included "BurnAds," "UniqAds," "Infyte," "NetMediaGroup," and "ForceUp," according to the indictment.
Sundin - the company's chief technology officer and chief operating officer - is believed to reside in Sweden, and the firm's chief executive officer, Jain, who authorities believe is in the Ukraine, were reported by the FBI as being behind the sales. Reno was also accused of running call centers for the scheme under the name of Byte Hosting Internet Services. According to the FBI, Reno is expected to surrender soon, although none of the three are in custody at this time.