Phishing

U.S. lead on huge phishing ring receives 13 years in prison

June 28, 2011

The U.S. point person for one of the largest phishing rings ever to be brought down has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for his part in stealing more than $1 million from victims.

Kenneth Lucas II, 27, of Los Angeles who led the U.S. arm of a global phishing operation that resulted in more than 100 arrests in 2009, previously pleaded guilty to 49 counts of bank and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, computer fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

The takedown, codenamed "Operation Phish Phry," remains one of the largest cybercrime busts in history, according to the FBI. About 50 individuals from California, Nevada and North Carolina, in addition to another 50 Egyptian citizens, were charged.

According to the FBI, Egyptian hackers stole bank account numbers and credentials from customers of two banks who were tricked into divulging the information to the hackers after receiving legitimate-looking emails with links claiming to lead to the websites of their financial institutions.

"Armed with the bank account information, members of the conspiracy hacked into accounts," the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said in a Monday release. "Once they accessed the accounts, the individuals in Egypt coordinated transfers of funds from the compromised accounts to newly created fraudulent accounts."

That is where Lucas and two co-conspirators came into play. They oversaw an operation to recruit money mules, individuals who establish bank accounts that are used to receive, store and later transfer stolen funds overseas. The mules, who often don't realize they are doing anything wrong, receive a cut of the proceeds.

Lucas was separately sentenced Monday to two years in prison -- to run consecutively to the 11-year term -- for overseeing a marijuana growing operation at his home, prosecutors said. He bragged about the set-up on YouTube, and later authorities raided his home and found 100 pot plants in the grow room. Lucas admitted to making $45,000 off the sale of the drug.

His attorney could not be reached for comment.

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