FBI Takes Down International ‘Phish Phry’ Cyber Gang

October 8, 2009

(ChattahBox)—After a two-year investigation that led investigators from the United States to the Middle East in Egypt, the FBI finally indicted 100 members of a phishing gang in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday. The gang of cyber criminals sent phishing emails to victims asking for bank account information, which resulted in the theft of at least $1.5 million from the victims’ accounts.

The FBI dubbed the investigation, Operation Phish Phry and it resulted in the indictment of 53 defendants in the U.S, with another 47 alleged co-conspirators charged in Egypt.

The U.S. suspects range in age from 18 to 44 and all are charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.

The 51-count indictment charges some of the U.S. defendants with additional counts of unauthorized access to computers, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

The alleged U.S. ringleaders were identified, as Kenneth Joseph Lucas, 25, Nichole Michelle Merzi, 24, and Jonathan Preston Clark, 25. The ringleaders allegedly recruited people to join the scheme by setting up bank accounts.

“The gang members in Egypt would then access the victim accounts and initiate wire transfers to siphon funds to the receiving accounts. Once the money was withdrawn from these accounts, it was transmitted by wire service to gang members in Egypt, minus a portion kept for the U.S. participants.”

Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona said, “This international phishing ring had a significant impact on two banks and caused huge headaches for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bank customers.”

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