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International Law

Record ‘Phish Phry’ Bank Cybercrime Bust Nets 100 in US & Egypt

Posted Oct 7, 2009 4:46 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Authorities have announced charges against 100 individuals in the United States and Egypt in what they say is the largest such case ever pursued in the U.S.

Operation Phish Phry netted 53 defendants in the U.S. and 47 in Egypt. They are accused of stealing money from thousands of Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. customers after obtaining personal information from account holders in a "phishing" scheme, according to Bloomberg and Computerworld.

The 53 defendants in the U.S. are the most ever charged in a single cybercrime case, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which also says the Phish Phry probe is the largest such investigation ever pursued in this country.

All 53 were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in a Los Angeles grand jury indictment that was announced today, and some face additional charges. Authorities today arrested 33 of the indicted defendants and are looking for the other 20, reports Computerworld. The 47 defendants in Egypt were charged there as co-conspirators.

“The sophistication with which Phish Phry defendants operated represents an evolving and troubling paradigm in the way identity theft is now committed,” says Acting Assistant FBI Director Keith Bolcar in a written statement. “Criminally savvy groups recruit here and abroad to pool tactics and skills necessary to commit organized theft."

Spokeswomen for the banks didn't immediately respond to requests for comment from Bloomberg.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Authorities Struggle to Cope With ‘Tsunami of Digital Evidence’"

Modesto Bee: "Direct deposit becoming a victim of cybercrime"

Threat Level (Wired): "New Malware Re-Writes Online Bank Statements to Cover Fraud"

Last updated at 6:44 p.m. to link to related articles.

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