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5 million emails sent in 10 days: Inside the world of 78 Nigerian Yahoo Boys

An American online publisher focusing on the tech industry, TechCrunch, has revealed that a whopping five million emails were sent within 10 days by a group of 80 Internet scammers who were rounded up in an earth-shaking clampdown on fraudsters in the United States on Thursday.

Out of the 80 individuals involved, 78 of them are Nigerians residing variously in the United States and Nigeria.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Central District of California, Thom Mrozek, confirmed that the indicted persons were arrested during raids on Thursday — mostly in the Los Angeles area.

“A total of 80 defendants are allegedly involved in the scheme,” the medium said of the early morning raids.

The 145-page indictment, unsealed Thursday, said the 80 named individuals are charged with conspiracy to commit “mail and bank fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft and money laundering.”

Most of the individuals alleged to be involved in the scheme are based in Nigeria, Mrozek said.

TechCrunch reported that, for 10 days in March, millions of unsuspecting people were caught in these scammers’ massive spam campaigns.

“Each email looked like it came from someone the recipient knew: the spammer took stolen email addresses and passwords, quietly logged into their email account, scraped their recently sent emails and pushed out personalized emails to the recipient of that sent email with a link to a fake site, pushing a weight loss pill or a bitcoin scam,” the online publishing outfit reported.

“The emails were so convincing more than 100,000 people clicked through,” it said, providing the details of how it employed tech security researchers to track the online activities of the fraudsters.

“We know this because a security researcher found the server leaking the entire operation. The spammer had forgotten to set a password,” it wrote.

It noted that, as of the time it accessed one of the scammers’ servers’, the rig was no longer running, probably in an effort to avoid getting blacklisted by anti-spam providers. “But the server was primed to start spamming again,” TechCrunch said.

It revealed that there were “more than three million unique exposed credentials sitting on the spammer’s server.”

The server was hosted on intelimost.com, with no contact information for the spammer, TechCrunch said; and contacted the hosting provider, Awknet, urging it to pull the scammers’ server offline. Awknet obliged.

“We found a massive spam operation and sunk its servers,” TechCrunch said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation indictment sheet obtained by The PUNCH is revealing.

The 145-page FBI charge sheet contains the names of the defendants in the multi-billion-dollar fraud case, the names of their indicted co-conspirators, and those of the un-indicted co-conspirators.

Listing the objects of the conspiracy, the charge sheet states that, “Beginning on a date unknown to the Grand Jury, but no later than October 7, 2014, and continuing through an unknown date, but no earlier than on or about May 2, 2018, in Los Angeles County, within the Central District of California, and elsewhere, the defendants and others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, knowingly conspired:

“a. to conduct and attempt to conduct, financial transactions, affecting interstate and foreign commerce, knowing that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, which, in fact, involved the proceeds of specified unlawful activity — namely, wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344(2) — and knowing that the transactions were designed in whole and in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(i);

“b. to transport, transmit, and transfer, and attempt to transport, transmit, and transfer, funds from a place in the United States to a place outside of the United States, knowing that the property involved in the financial transactions represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, and which property was, in fact, the proceeds of specified unlawful activity — namely, wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344(2) — and knowing that the transactions were designed in whole and in part to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the proceeds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(2)(B)(i); and

“c. to engage and attempt to engage in monetary transactions involving criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000, affecting interstate and foreign commerce, which was derived from specified unlawful activity — namely, wire fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343; mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344(2) and knowing that the funds represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957.”

The suspects face 252 counts bordering on fraud, intent to commit fraud, impersonation and related crimes, according to the introductory allegation charge sheet.

The Prosecutor added that the United States of America will seek “forfeiture as part of any sentence, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Sections 982 and 1028 and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461(c) in the event of any defendant’s conviction of the offenses set forth in any of Counts One Hundred Seventy-One through Two Hundred Fifty-Two of this Indictment.

“Any defendant so convicted shall forfeit to the United States of America the following:

“(a) All right, title and interest in any and all property,

real or personal, constituting, or derived from, any proceeds

obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of the offense;

” (b) Any personal property used or intended to be used to

commit the offense; and

“(c) To the extent such property is not available for

forfeiture, a sum of money equal to the total value of the property

described in subparagraphs (a) and (b).

“Pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853(p), as

incorporated by Title 18, United States Code, Sections 982(b) and

1028(g), any defendant so convicted shall forfeit substitute

property, up to the total value of the property described in the

preceding paragraph if, as the result of any act or omission of said

defendant, the property described in the preceding paragraph, or any portion thereof: (a) cannot be located upon the exercise of due

diligence; (b) has been transferred, sold to or deposited with a third party “

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