A suspected senior gang member of Manche Boy Mafia identified as Equanzick Howell was sentenced by a United State District Judge, James D. Whittemore, to eleven years and two months in federal prison. He was charged with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft. The suspect had initially pleaded guilty to all the charges back on August 16, 2018 and was only awaiting the conviction.
From the documents presented in court, the suspect had a number of aliases which he used to remain anonymous, such as “Pookie,” “Big Pook,” and “Pook Pook.” The court documents also state that between 2011 and 2018, the suspect was involved in tax fraud, and he also committed credit card fraud and identity theft.
According to the prosecutor, between March and June of 2013, the suspect filed twelve tax returns that were later deemed fraudulent. In one instance, the suspect used his name in the tax fraud where he later directed the refunded cash to his H&R Block card.
The court was told that all the returns except Howell’s return, were filed using stolen identities, mostly from the elderly, mentally disabled people, and from the deceased. The suspect used the H&R block account to make all the ATM withdrawals and to make purchases in high-end restaurants. It was also cited that in one instance, Howell paid $2,500 for his girlfriend to undergo cosmetic surgery.
According to the court’s document, during the 2012, 2013, and 2014 tax returns, the suspect together with his conspirators made illegal claims to the Internal Revenue Service for unwarranted tax returns. They were requesting for over $900,000 in tax returns from the government organization but only ended up receiving about $140,000 fraudulently.
The investigators went deeper into the case and uncovered a different, bigger identity fraud theft. According to the investigators, from 2015, the gang members of Manche Boy Mafia began to search dark web forums and other encrypted forums to buy stolen credit and debit card Fullz. The gang would use Bitcoins to hide their trail and remain anonymous from the law enforcement agents investigating their illegal activities.
It is alleged that after acquiring the Fullz, the gang members used them to create counterfeit debit and credit cards. This gave them a window of opportunity to use the counterfeit cards to purchase gift cards and electronics. The suspect is also said to have used the counterfeit cards to acquire gift cards which he used to buy firearms and other ammunition.
The investigators are linking the main suspect to a colossal fraud scheme that resulted in the loss of almost $1.1 million through purchases made with the counterfeit cards. It is a significant loss to the victims who probably were oblivious of the fraud taking place with their bank account credentials.
According to the special agent in charge of the IRS criminal investigation, Mary Hammond, the conviction of the suspect directly represents the effort of the IRS special agent in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Tampa Police Department. She says the combined agencies effort will bring down the scourge of identity theft and other related tax frauds lurking within society. She continued to say that it is a big concern for innocent citizens to end up victims of such ruthless gangs instigating cyber-attacks and other related fraud.
As the year comes to an end, many cyber-attacks are likely to hit many people as they celebrate and make online transactions for Christmas shopping. Cybercriminals are working round the clock to create phishing links that include websites, scam emails, and phone calls.
It does not take long after a black hat hacker has compromised a point of sale system to acquire a full database containing customer’s bank account details. For this, online retailers and other stores are greatly advised to heighten their cybersecurity measures in order to protect their customers.
At this period when most online retailers are offering subsidized prices for Black Friday, customers are advised to be very keen when submitting their credentials with any third-party dealers. This will, in return, help them mitigate any likelihood of being victim to cyber frauds.