Prison for four who ran credit card fraud market

The four pleaded guilty to running the largest English-language forum for online crime

Four men who ran what U.K. police say was the largest English-language criminal forum for selling stolen credit card numbers and the tools to steal data were imprisoned for a combined total of more than 15 years, according to the Metropolitan Police.

The GhostMarket forum had more than 8,000 members and was a marketplace for everything from the famous Zeus online banking malware to recipes for making crystal meth and even bombs, police said.

Ringleader Nicholas Webber, 19, of Southsea, and Gary Paul Kelly, 21, of Manchester, were arrested at Gatwick Airport in January 2010, after they'd been living in an apartment in Port d'Andratx, Majorca.

They pleaded guilty to computer misuse and fraud charges and were sentenced Wednesday in Southwark Crown Court in London. They both received five-year prison sentences.

Also sentenced were Ryan Thomas, 18, of Beaconsfield, Hertforshire, to four years, and Shakira Ricardo, 21, of Swansea to 18 months. A fifth defendant, Samantha Worley, of Swansea, pleaded guilty in December to acquiring criminal property and was sentenced to community service.

Ghostmarket was a full-service cybercrime forum selling passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) for PayPal accounts, Social Security numbers, malware programs, phishing kits, botnet services, tutorials on how to evade police, and details of vulnerable websites and servers, police said.

Webber was the site's administrator, allowing new members in and editing posts on the website, until it was shut down after an 11-month investigation by the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU).

After examining Kelly's computers and mobile phones, investigators discovered the site held more than 130,000 credit card numbers. Police said Kelly helped them reconstruct Ghostmarket and its forum using database files from his PC.

Kelly and Webber fled to Majorca in October 2009 after being arrested in a five-star hotel in London for using stolen credit card details for pay for the penthouse suite. They were released on bail, and then fled about two weeks after their initial arrest.

An investigation into the gang's finances continues, police said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

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Tags fraudcybercrimemalwarelegalCriminalExploits / vulnerabilitiesIdentity fraud / theftNone

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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