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A Russian hacker stole the identities of 22 of the 75 living recipients of the U.S. Congress ‘s Medal of Honor and used their stolen personal information to buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of Apple products and luxury watches on American military exchanges obtained from The Daily Beast.
The hot merchandise was then shipped to at least 20 different addresses in the US using ignorant scammers hired through seemingly innocuous online advertisements. The parcels were then forwarded to a Moscow suburb, where a training academy for a Russian spy agency is located. In total, the fraudster netted nearly $ 55,000 worth of stolen goods in around 50 separate transactions, according to investigators. The individual award winners whose personal data was used will not be named in the registration that was unsealed in December 2020.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the country’s highest military award for valiant deeds and was first awarded in 1863. The existence of the identity theft investigation was previously unknown.
Poisoners, hackers, meddlers, spies: How Russian agents ran wild in 2020
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), U.S. military veterans are 76 percent more likely to be victims of identity theft than civilians. Last year, the FTC received 56,451 identity theft reports from members of the military with an average fraud loss of $ 600, roughly double the $ 311 civilians lost to fraudsters. The investigation into Congressional Medal of Honor identity theft began just months before the April 2014 hack by the U.S. Office of Human Resources Management (OPM) revealed the personal information, including Social Security numbers, of millions of troops and veterinarians nearly 15 years old were years. The authorities were unaware of the breach (OPM) until March 2015, giving the hackers about a year to operate undetected.
The Secret Service, which investigates financial crime in addition to its more well-known protective obligations, first learned of the Congressional Medal of Honor fraud in February 2014. The stolen personal information was used to establish fraudulent lines of credit through the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), a network of military-based retail stores operated by the Department of Defense. These accounts were then used to purchase expensive AAFES merchandise on behalf of the award winners, which were shipped to approximately 20 different addresses across the United States. From there the packages were forwarded to Balashikha, a town about 15 miles east of Moscow. The training academy of the Russian Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, is located there.
The story goes on
Most of these middlemen were recruited through websites aimed at Russian-speaking nationals.
“Have a nice day! My name is Maksim Znaeshev and I need energetic workers as packers,” said a job advertisement that appeared in January 2014. “This job is easy and at home. Your salary depends on the work done, usually it is it $ 20-50 per day depends on the number of orders in your state and the speed of your work. Only people are responsible with 2-3 hours a day for free and no bad habits! Email me: Maksim .Zna @ gmail.com… ”
Another requested résumé from applicants, pointing out that “the job is not difficult, nothing bulky and difficult to pack is not necessary. All states except Alaska. “
Kiril Motorin, a Maryland chimney sweep, was one of those who responded. He told The Daily Beast that he never spoke to anyone on the phone and never knew the name of the person he worked for.
Motorin, a Russian-speaking Israeli citizen, told intelligence agents who eventually turned up at his home that it was his job to “receive packages, most of which had different recipient names and were from different companies, and then forward the packages to other addresses.” both in the USA and in Russia. He said he received $ 20 a package and that all correspondence with his “employer” was via email.
The two created a paper path for the fraudulently received products, which Motorin shared with the investigators. This included copies of receipts from the U.S. Postal Service, which Motorin used to prove to his boss that he had actually shipped the goods as promised. Motorin also provided the Secret Service with email correspondence sent from his overseas contact stating that Motorin would be paid for his work through a PayPal account. In a message, the contact and Motorin discussed a shipment of Apple devices purchased through AAFES with the stolen identity of the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. The equipment was sent to Motorin’s Maryland home and had to be shipped back to Balashikha, the alleged fraudster said.
Sometimes Motorin was instructed to send the packages he received to UNEOL Post, a now defunct mail order company in Salem, New Hampshire. UNEOL owners Anastasia and Sergey Bulavchenko pleaded guilty of tax evasion in an unrelated credit card fraud case in 2017 and have reportedly returned to Russia, where they would await two years parole under the contract. The Daily Beast was unable to reach the couple for comment.
The investigators were able to connect the e-mail address used by the alleged fraudster to the registrar of three Russian carding forums where identity thieves buy and sell stolen personal data. According to online records, the email is linked to Evgenij Veremejchik from Sim, Russia.
Veremejchik is not listed as a defendant on federal court files, and the disposition of the Congressional Medal of Honor case is unknown.
For his part, Motorin says he has no idea what happened after being questioned by the secret service.
“He spoke to me once,” he said, referring to the interviewer, “and that’s it.”
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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