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German Man Sentenced for Selling Stolen Identities on the Dark Web

A judge at a district court in Germany sentenced a fraudster to more than three years in prison for selling the personal information of his victims on the dark web and for using stolen information for his own fraudulent transactions.

The defendant, 28, after his arrest, helped investigators track down accomplices and fully cooperated with the police. If not for his cooperation, the judge said that he would have sentenced the defendant to a prison sentence of five years or more. The fraudster had defrauded victims out of more than $125,000. He had initially attempted to appeal the sentence, but a judge warned him that the appeal would backfire and possibly result in an even lengthier sentence.

According to the defendant, he had followed up on a job after reading a job application on the internet. After meeting with the so-called “employer,” he learned that the job involved a form of money laundering. The partner—the defendant’s boss—would open bank accounts with stolen names and personal information. The boss would then send money from his own operation to the bank accounts he had previously opened with fraudulent account information. According to investigators and information revealed in a parallel court case, the “boss” sent the 28-year-old to ATMs every few days to withdraw between $10,000 and $15,000 in cash. Due to bank limitations intended to prevent such situations, the defendant’s “employer” would have the defendant withdraw money from dozens of different accounts at dozens of ATMs. Over time, the defendant learned how his employer had been obtaining information for these stolen bank accounts. He wanted to start earning money by himself.

He then launched his own fraud operation. His specialty was opening bank accounts under the names of unsuspecting victims that required additional verification from the account opener. In most of these cases, the defendant sent emails to his targets that asked the target if they wanted to participate in a study or form of market research that would pay some money upon completion. For the “study,” he had the victims send him their payment information. And then, for their identification, he asked for pictures of their face next to their form of photo identification. If one of his victims completed the verification process, the defendant ceased all contact with the victim. He had already stolen all the information needed for a bank application. “I was really fascinated by how easy it all was,” the 28-year-old told the court.

The defendant opened more than just bank accounts. He opened credit cards in the names of some of the defendants. He used those cards to fraudulently purchase items from eBay sellers and other online shops. Investigators found evidence that the fraudster had created fake stores online designed to mirror sites known by the general population. In order to protect his name and identity, the fraudster pumped the profits from his scam websites into bank accounts under the names of the victims of his previous scams. Customers would frequently notice that the site had stolen their money without sending them anything in return. The defendant maintained this scam operation for so long that investigators stopped manually investigating the fraudulent transactions; most of the transactions were for small amounts of money. Even though law enforcement had counted 200 or more examples of these fraudulent transactions, they knew they had more serious charges to pursue.

During the sentencing hearing, the court heard how the defendant had also sent bulk phishing emails to hundreds of victims throughout Germany. He primarily phished eBay account credentials and then used the stolen logins to make unauthorized purchases. He also attempted to match the credentials to other online shopping platforms and payment processors.

His final operation involved reselling all the stolen account information through a vendor account on a dark web marketplace. He sold listings for personal information, cards, and the bank accounts he had created with the stolen identities. Then, the court heard, the 28-year-old often attempted to maintain access to the stolen bank accounts even after people had purchased the accounts for their own use.

In court, the defendant asked the judge for probation. The judge sentenced the man to three years and four months in prison. The fraudster was ordered to pay back all the money he had stolen through his various forms of fraud.

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