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International cyber ring hit with felony charges by authorities

The Manhattan District Attorney has announced the arrest of what he indicates is a significant group of international hackers who allegedly broke into the databases of a major ticket exchange. In all, seven people scattered in different countries have been arrested for allegedly accessing 1,600 accounts on StubHub, the online entertainment and sporting events ticket exchange. In New York, the two men arrested are facing felony charges of money laundering, identity theft, possessing stolen property, and grand larceny.

The gist of the alleged conspiracy is that the men hacked their way into the database, then used the victims’ own credit card information to “purchase” more than $1.6 million in tickets. The Manhattan District Attorney held a news conference to announce the arrests. He also stressed the international cooperation necessary to carry out and consummate this kind of investigation.

Despite providing the usual self-congratulatory visual hoopla of prosecutorial news conferences, the district attorney did not indicate much in the way of hard evidence against the defendants. He said that authorities discovered that two men from foreign countries were purportedly buying the tickets illegally and then emailing them to three Americans. The three men then allegedly sold the tickets, and derived profits from the illegal sham operation.

The final step was the attempt to wash the money using international wire transfers and PayPal. The prosecutor indicated that his investigators studied receipts and transaction records and then traced the exchanges to Internet addresses, PayPal accounts, bank accounts and other accounts purportedly used by the suspects. Two of the suspects are in Russia and it’s not clear if they will be prosecuted or apprehended.

An executive assistant for the New York district attorney’s office admitted that the relationship of the eight men is “not entirely clear” at this point. That establishes the possibility of inaccurate information regarding one or more suspects and could indicate a possible criminal defense to the felony charges. Thus, it’s conceivable that the American suspects thought that they were selling valid tickets, which would militate against a finding of criminal intent on their part.

Source: USA Today, "Arrests made in global, $1.6M StubHub cybertheft case", Yamiche Alcindor, July 23, 2014

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