The function of the dark web is to provide anonymity to those who would like to protect their privacy and keep their real-world identity unknown.
Cyber criminals have always taken advantage of this aspect leading to the dark web being associated with mostly illegal activities including but not limited to drug dealing, weapons, and stolen data are among others.
However, operating within the dark web platforms does not guarantee safety from the law.
On October the 5th, a man from Wallingford, Connecticut was arrested by the federal authorities due to a criminal complaint that was filed against him.
Michael Richo, 34, is being charged with crimes such as access device fraud, identity theft, money laundering, wire fraud and computer fraud.
The complaint is in regards to his involvement in an elaborate phishing scheme targeting bitcoin users on the dark web.
This announcement was made by Special Agent Patricia M. Ferrick and Deirdre M. Daly, a day after Michael Richo’s arrest.
Agent Ferrick is the one in charge with New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation while Daly is The United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut.
Michael was allegedly caught illegally acquiring the identities and digital currencies of dark web users, this activity threatens to hand him more than 50 years imprisonment.
MICHAEL’S DARK WEB PHISHING SCHEME
He allegedly posted fake phishing links on online platforms on the dark web forums that directed unsuspecting dark web users to a fake URL with an authentic looking but also fake login page.
While users are keying in their usernames and passwords to log in, Michael would have access to this crucial information.
He would then log into the real dark net markets using the usernames and passwords and monitor their bitcoin transactions.
At this point, it was very easy for him to withdraw the bitcoins once a user deposited them to the actual marketplace.
He had his own account where he would transfer the bitcoins before the dark web users could make purchases with the crypto currency.
He proceeded to trade the bitcoins to other dark web users in exchange for fiat US dollar.
The fiat currency was later deposited to a bank account under his control.
At the moment, there is no information from the authorities on the exact number of bitcoins that were stolen or their total value in US dollars.
According to the complaint, Michael Rico managed to acquire more than 10,000 passwords and usernames using the phishing scheme, all of which he had saved on his computer.
THE CHARGES AGAINST MICHAEL RICHO
Michael Rico is currently a free man on a $100,000 bond after appearing before a Magistrate Judge in New Haven.
He was released on the same day he was arrested.
Federal authorities stated that the maximum sentence he would serve in prison if he is found guilty of all the aforementioned charges is 57 years.
The prosecutor is Neeraj N. Patel, Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Although, there is a small possibility that he may not be given the maximum sentence if convicted.
The Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies have been bold in their efforts to tracking and bringing to justice the cyber criminals operating on the dark corners of the internet.
This will not be the first case related to the bitcoin crypto currency that the Department of Justice will be dealing with.
An almost similar case was handled by a federal grand jury earlier this year and was the first bitcoin-related dark web case for the Department of Justice.
In that case, three men from New York were charged with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business (bitcoin exchange business), this includes money laundering conspiracy, transacting in criminally acquired property among others.
Two of the men were given the maximum sentence for the said crime.
Michael Richo’s case could go in the same direction.
The wire fraud and money laundering charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years each.
The access device fraud and computer fraud have a maximum prison term of 10 years and 5 years respectively.
The charge with the least prison term is the aggravated identity theft charge that warrants a mandatory two-year sentence.
Michael Richo’s case is still under investigation by the FBI and as it stands, he cannot be considered guilty of any of these crimes yet.