Wednesday, March 3, 2010

OAP internet fraudster helped run 'Facebook for crooks' - - 01 Mar 2010

A DONCASTER pensioner who was part of an internet "Facebook for fraudsters" has been jailed for two years.
John McHugh, aged 66, of Lime Tree Grove, Thorne, was involved with Renukanth Subramaniam, 33, in running a website for trading stolen bank information.

The site, DarkMarket, was linked to losses of tens of millions of pounds and was a "one-stop shop" for fraudsters, offering criminals a place to trade credit card details and discuss how to carry out financial crimes, Blackfriars Crown Court in London heard.

Subramaniam, who came to Britain from Sri Lanka as an asylum seeker in 1991, was jailed for 46 months for conspiracy to defraud and 10 months for five counts of mortgage fraud. The sentences run consecutively.

His partner-in-crime, McHugh, was jailed for two years for conspiracy to defraud.

Judge John Hillen said: "Criminals should learn from this case that, even in cyberspace, there is no hiding place."

DarkMarket, created in 2005 as a virtual community for fraudsters, was shut down by an undercover FBI officer after a two-year global investigation.

Prosecutor Sandip Patel said the case was "extraordinary" because the conspiracy was "founded and promoted in cyberspace".

"They were able to utilise modern technology in a way which gave them the capability to commit theft on an unprecedented scale with relative - but not absolute - impunity with no more than a dishonest will, a laptop, a mouse and internet access. In short, it was a Facebook for fraudsters."

Subramaniam, who was granted British citizenship in 2002, was described as a "loner". He was notorious among cyber criminals and a key figure in the success of DarkMarket

Police discovered a sophisticated counterfeit credit card factory at McHugh's house, the court heard.

But Nina Grahame, defending, said Mc Hugh had made no more than £30,000 from his criminal activities and added it was spent on things like alcohol, cigarettes, groceries and hotels - "in Blackpool, not Las Vegas".

At its height DarkMarket boasted a membership of more than 2,000, and Mr Patel said it would be reasonable to suppose the losses it caused ran into tens of millions of pounds.

By Russ Newton

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