Malware Author Pleads Guilty for Role in Transnational Cybercrime Organization Responsible for more than $568 Million in Losses

Cybercrime Organization Victimized Millions in all 50 States and Worldwide in One of the Largest Cyberfraud Enterprises Ever Prosecuted by the Department of Justice

An author of malicious computer software and a member of the Infraud Organization pleaded guilty today to RICO conspiracy, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. 

Valerian Chiochiu, aka “Onassis,” “Flagler,” “Socrate,” and “Eclessiastes,” 30, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Mahan in the District of Nevada.  Chiochiu is a national of the Republic of Moldova, but resided in the United States during the period of the conspiracy.  His plea came just over a month after the co-founder and administrator of Infraud, Sergey Medvedev of Russia, separately pleaded guilty on June 26.  Sentencing for Chiochiu has been scheduled for Dec. 11.

Infraud was an Internet-based cybercriminal enterprise engaged in the large-scale acquisition, sale, and dissemination of stolen identities, compromised debit and credit cards, personally identifiable information, financial and banking information, computer malware, and other contraband.

“Over the course of seven years, Infraud and its alleged conspirators created a sophisticated cybercriminal racketeering scheme that victimized individuals, merchants, and financial institutions to the tune of over half a billion dollars in losses,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “The Justice Department is committed to unmasking cyber criminals and their criminal organizations that use the internet for fraudulent schemes.”

“HSI and our partners are at the forefront of combating financial crimes and illicit activities spread on the Internet,” said Special Agent in Charge Francisco Burrola for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Las Vegas Office.  “While criminal operators may continue to grow the reach of their criminal activity, ultimately they do not escape the reach of law enforcement. We continue to investigate, disrupt, and dismantle hidden illegal networks that pose a threat in cyberspace.”

According to the indictment, the Infraud Organization was created in October 2010 by Medvedev and Svyatoslav Bondarenko, aka “Obnon,” “Rector,” and “Helkern,” 34, of Ukraine, to promote and grow interest in the Infraud Organization as the premier destination for “carding” —purchasing retail items with counterfeit or stolen credit card information — on the Internet.  Under the slogan, “In Fraud We Trust,” the organization directed traffic and potential purchasers to the automated vending sites of its members, which served as online conduits to traffic in stolen means of identification, stolen financial and banking information, malware, and other illicit goods.  It also provided an escrow service to facilitate illicit digital currency transactions among its members and employed screening protocols that purported to ensure only high quality vendors of stolen cards, personally identifiable information, and other contraband were permitted to advertise to members.  In March 2017, there were 10,901 registered members of the Infraud Organization.

Bondarenko currently remains a fugitive.  

According to the indictment, Chiochiu provided guidance to other Infraud members on the development, deployment, and use of malware as a means of harvesting stolen data.  As part of his plea agreement, Chiochiu admitted to authoring a strain of malware known to the computer security community as “FastPOS”.

During the course of its seven-year history, the Infraud Organization inflicted approximately $2.2 billion in intended losses, and more than $568 million in actual losses, on a wide swath of financial institutions, merchants, and private individuals, and would have continued to do so for the foreseeable future if left unchecked. 

The investigation was conducted by the Las Vegas Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Henderson, Nevada Police Department.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California also provided assistance with Chiochiu’s case.  Deputy Chief Kelly Pearson and Trial Attorneys Chad W. McHenry and Alexander Gottfried of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section are prosecuting the case.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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    Hospital outpatient departments perform a wide range of procedures, including diagnostic and surgical procedures, which may use drugs that Medicare considers to function as supplies. If the drug is new, and its cost is high relative to Medicare's payment for the procedure, then hospitals can receive a separate “pass-through” payment for the drug in addition to Medicare's payment for the procedure. These pass-through payments are in effect for 2 to 3 years. When the pass-through payments expire, Medicare no longer pays separately for the drug, and payment for the drug is “packaged” with the payment for the related procedure. The payment rate for the procedure does not vary by whether or not the drug is used. Medicare intends this payment rate to be an incentive for hospitals to furnish services efficiently, such as using the most cost-efficient items that meet the patient's needs. Examples of Types of Drugs that Medicare Considers to Function as Supplies GAO's analysis of Medicare data showed that higher payments were associated with six of seven selected drugs when they were eligible for pass-through payments versus when their payments were packaged. For example, one drug used in cataract removal procedures was eligible for pass-through payments in 2017. That year, Medicare paid $1,824 for the procedure and $463 for the drug pass-through payment—a total payment of $2,287. If a hospital performed the same cataract removal procedure when the drug was packaged the following year, there was no longer a separate payment for the drug. Instead, Medicare paid $1,921 for the procedure whether or not the hospital used the drug. Of the seven selected drugs, GAO also reviewed differences in use for four of them that did not have limitations on Medicare coverage during the time frame of GAO's analysis, such as coverage that was limited to certain clinical trials. GAO found that hospitals' use of three of the four drugs was lower when payments for the drugs were packaged. This was consistent with the financial incentives created by the payment system. In particular, given the lower total payment for the drug and procedure when the drug is packaged, hospitals may have a greater incentive to use a lower-cost alternative for the procedure. Hospitals' use of a fourth drug increased regardless of payment status. The financial incentives for that drug appeared minimal because the total payment for it and its related procedure was about the same when it was eligible for pass-through payments and when packaged. Other factors that can affect use of the drugs include the use of the drugs for certain populations and whether hospitals put the drugs on their formularies, which guide, in part, whether the drug is used at that hospital. The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed a draft of this report and provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. Medicare makes “pass-through” payments under Medicare Part B when hospital outpatient departments use certain new, high-cost drugs. These temporary payments are in addition to Medicare's payments for the procedures using the drugs. They may help make the new drugs accessible for beneficiaries and also allow Medicare to collect information on the drugs' use and costs. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 included a provision for GAO to review the effect of Medicare's policy for packaging high-cost drugs after their pass-through payments have expired. This report describes (1) the payments associated with selected high-cost drugs when eligible for pass-through payments versus when packaged, and (2) hospitals' use of those drugs when eligible for pass-through payments versus when packaged. GAO reviewed federal regulations on pass-through payments and Medicare payment files for all seven drugs whose pass-through payments expired in 2017 or 2018 and that were subsequently packaged. All of these drugs met Medicare's definition for having a high cost relative to Medicare's payment rate for the procedure using the drug. GAO also reviewed Medicare claims data on the use of the drugs for 2017 through 2019 (the most recent available). To supplement this information, GAO also interviewed Medicare officials, as well officials from 11 organizations representing hospitals, physicians, and drug manufacturers, about payment rates, use, reporting, and clinical context for the drugs. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
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  • Member of Neo-Nazi Group Sentenced for Plot to Target Journalists and Advocates
    In Crime News
    Johnny Roman Garza, 21, a member of the Neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, was sentenced today to 16 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose anti-Semitism.
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  • Cyber Diplomacy: State Should Use Data and Evidence to Justify Its Proposal for a New Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of State (State) did not demonstrate that it used data and evidence to develop its proposal for establishing a new Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET). In response to GAO requests for such data and evidence, State provided GAO with briefing slides outlining different options for the new bureau and an action memo, approved by the Secretary of State. The memo recommended that CSET focus on cyberspace security and the security aspects of emerging technologies and report to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, while the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) would continue to have responsibility for digital economy issues. However, State did not explain how it would address any challenges associated with the decision on CSET's organizational placement. For example, the memo did not address how State would coordinate internally on the cybersecurity aspects of digital economy policy issues with cyber diplomacy functions split between CSET and EB. The memo also did not specify how State would develop consolidated positions and set priorities for State's international cyberspace efforts, given the separation of these issues. Moreover, neither the briefing nor the action memo contained analyses supporting the additional details laid out in State's 2019 notification to Congress on CSET, including support for proposed resource allocations for the new bureau. Without developing data and evidence to support its proposal for the new bureau, State lacks assurance that its proposal will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources for the bureau to achieve its intended goals. State needs to develop these areas further to better ensure the success of any new organizational arrangement. The United States and its allies are facing expanding foreign cyber threats as international trade, communication, and critical infrastructure become increasingly dependent on cyberspace. State leads U.S. government international efforts to advance the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace. The Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2019 (H.R. 739, 116th Cong.), co-sponsored by 29 members of Congress, proposed the establishment of a new office within State that would have consolidated responsibility for digital economy and internet freedom issues, together with international cybersecurity issues. While the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported out this bill in March 2019, the full House of Representatives did not consider the bill prior to expiration of the 116th Congress. State subsequently notified Congress in June 2019 of its plan to establish CSET, with a narrower focus on cyberspace security and emerging technologies. On January 7, 2021, State announced that the Secretary had approved the creation of CSET and directed the department to move forward with establishing the bureau. However, as of the date of this report, State had not created CSET. GAO was asked to review State's efforts to advance U.S. interests in cyberspace. This report examines the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET. GAO reviewed available documentation and interviewed State officials. To determine the extent to which State used data and evidence to develop and justify its proposal to establish CSET, GAO assessed State's documentation against a relevant key practice for agency reforms compiled in GAO's June 2018 report on government reorganization. The Secretary of State should ensure that State uses data and evidence to justify its current proposal, or any new proposal, to establish the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies to enable the bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources to achieve its goals. While State disagreed with GAO's characterization of its use of data and evidence to develop its proposal for CSET, it agreed that reviewing such information to evaluate program effectiveness can be useful. State commented that it has provided GAO with appropriate material on its decision to establish CSET and has not experienced challenges in coordinating cyberspace security policy across the department while the CSET proposal has been in discussion. State concluded that this provides assurance that CSET will allow the new bureau to effectively set priorities and allocate resources. The documents State provided in response to GAO's requests, including a set of briefing slides and an action memo to the Secretary, did not sufficiently demonstrate that it used data and evidence in developing its proposal. In addition, State's comment that it has not experienced coordination challenges in recent years is not sufficient evidence that the potential for such challenges does not exist. Without evidence to support the creation of the new bureau, State lacks needed assurance that the bureau will effectively set priorities and allocate appropriate resources to achieve its intended goals. For more information, contact Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130 or MazanecB@gao.gov, or Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or MarinosN@gao.gov.
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  • Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • National Consumer Bankruptcy Law Firm Agrees to Pay More than $300,000 in Relief to Consumers and to a Six-Year Practice Ban in Settlement with U.S. Trustee Program
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement with national consumer bankruptcy law firm Deighan Law LLC, previously known as Law Solutions Chicago and doing business as UpRight Law.
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  • Texas Woman Charged with Fraudulently Obtaining Nearly $2 Million in COVID Relief Funds
    In Crime News
    A Texas woman has been taken into custody on allegations she fraudulently obtained more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas.
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  • Immigration Enforcement: ICE Can Further Enhance Its Planning and Oversight of State and Local Agreements
    In U.S GAO News
    Within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) met its goal to expand the 287(g) program. However, ICE has not established performance goals that cover all program activities, such as ICE's oversight of its law enforcement agency (LEA) partners, or measures to assess the program's performance, such as the percentage of LEA partners in compliance with annual training requirements. As a result, ICE is not well-positioned to determine the extent to which the program is achieving intended results. ICE considers a number of factors, such as LEAs' capability to act as an ICE force multiplier, when reviewing their suitability to join the program; however, ICE has not assessed how to optimize the use of its resources and program benefits to guide its recruitment of future 287(g) participants. For example, ICE has two models in which LEAs can participate with varying levels of immigration enforcement responsibilities. In the Jail Enforcement Model (JEM), designated state or local officers identify and process removable foreign nationals who have been arrested and booked into the LEA's correctional facility, whereas in the Warrant Service Officer (WSO) model, the designated officers only serve warrants to such individuals. However, ICE has not assessed the mix of participants for each model that would address resource limitations, as each model has differing resource and oversight requirements. By assessing how to leverage its program resources and optimize benefits received, ICE could approach recruitment more strategically and optimize program benefits. 287(g) Participants in January 2017 and September 2020 ICE uses a number of mechanisms to oversee 287(g) JEM participants' compliance with their agreements, such as conducting inspections and reviewing reported complaints. However, at the time of GAO's review, ICE did not have an oversight mechanism for participants' in the WSO model. For example, ICE did not have clear policies on 287(g) field supervisors' oversight responsibilities or plan to conduct compliance inspections for WSO participants. An oversight mechanism could help ICE ensure that WSO participants comply with their 287(g) agreement and other relevant ICE policies and procedures. The 287(g) program authorizes ICE to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to assist with enforcing immigration laws. The program expanded from 35 agreements in January 2017 to 150 as of September 2020. GAO was asked to review ICE's management and oversight of the program. This report examines (1) the extent to which ICE has developed performance goals and measures to assess the 287(g) program; (2) how ICE determines eligibility for 287(g) program participation and considers program resources; and (3) how ICE conducts oversight of 287(g) program participant compliance and addresses noncompliance. GAO reviewed ICE policies and documentation, and interviewed officials from ICE headquarters and field offices. GAO also interviewed 11 LEAs selected based on the type of 287(g) agreement, length of participation, and facility type (e.g. state or local).While not generalizable, information collected from the selected LEAs provided insights into 287(g) program operations and oversight of program participants. GAO analyzed data on 287(g) inspection results and complaints from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO recommends that ICE (1) establish performance goals and related performance measures; (2) assess the 287(g) program's composition to help leverage its resources and optimize program benefits; and (3) develop and implement an oversight mechanism for the WSO model. DHS concurred with the recommendations. For more information, contact Rebecca Gambler at (202) 512-8777 or GamblerR@gao.gov.
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  • Minnesota Man Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud and Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Minnesota man was charged in an indictment unsealed today for allegedly fraudulently obtaining approximately $841,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
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  • Canadian Man Extradited from Spain to Face Charges for Massive Psychic Mail Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Canadian citizen accused of operating a decades-long psychic mail fraud scheme was extradited to the United States and made his initial appearance today in federal court in Central Islip, New York, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service announced.
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    In Travel
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  • Ohio Treatment Facilities and Corporate Parent Agree to Pay $10.25 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations of Kickbacks to Patients and Unnecessary Admissions
    In Crime News
    Oglethorpe Inc. and its three Ohio facilities, Cambridge Behavioral Hospital, Ridgeview Behavioral Hospital, and The Woods at Parkside, will pay $10.25 million to resolve alleged violations of the False Claims Act for improperly providing free long-distance transportation to patients and admitting patients at Cambridge and Ridgeview who did not require inpatient psychiatric treatment, resulting in the submission of false claims to the Medicare program. 
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  • New York Brothers Charged With COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    Two New York brothers were charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today for their alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking nearly $7 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York.
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  • Ten Men Sentenced to Prison for Their Roles in a Child Exploitation Enterprise and Conspiracy
    In Crime News
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  • Joint Press Statement of the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
    In Crime Control and Security News
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