Romanian Pleads Culpable On Phishing Charges

On January 14, 2010, a Romanian national, Cornel Ionut Tonita, 28, appealed guilty for his involvement in a phishing scam that circulated forged mails to customers of several financial institutions, asking for their personal information, reported SCMagazine on January 15, 2010.

As per a statement from US Attorney's Office in Connecticut (US), Tonita pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for committing e-mail related fraud. The report reveals that he can face almost five years of imprisonment.

In July 2009, Tonita was detained in Dubrovnik, Croatia (Europe), and then extradited to the US. His detention was a part of a comprehensive bust by US and Romanian officials in May 2008 that resulted in charges against nearly 40 people, all of whom had connections with organized cybercrime. The inquiry started after a complaint lodged by a Connecticut-based client of People's United Bank.

Reportedly, Tonita was charged of developing forged sites in order to acquire passwords and financial details. He accepted using software to gather e-mail IDs for sending spam e-mails to lure people into accessing one of the bogus websites developed by him. Prosecutors claimed that he forwarded a file containing 9,811 e-mail addresses to another accomplice.

In addition, he was also reportedly giving payment card information to others who would use that information to make fraudulent cards.

As per the prosecutors, the financial institutions Tonita targeted through his fake e-mails included PayPal, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Comerica Bank and eBay. The objective was to dupe customers of these financial institutions into divulging their private details like Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers.

The prosecutors also informed that six others have also been accused for their involvement in the criminal gang. Ovidiu-Ionut Nicola-Roman, 23 was the first among the seven to be caught. He was ordered a prison term of 50 months after his arrest in 2007 in Bulgaria on an Interpol warrant, reported SCMagazine on January 15, 2010.

Related article: Romanian Hacker Haunting ebay

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