A former US Navy IT manager has been sentenced to five years and five months in prison after illegally hacking a database containing personally identifiable information (PII) and selling it on the dark web.
32-year-old Marquis Cooper, of Selma, California, was a chief petty officer in the US Navy's Seventh Fleet when he opened an account in August 2018 with a company that maintains a PII database for millions of people.
The company, which has not been named by the US Department of Justice in its press release about Cooper's sentencing, restricts access to its database to those organisations and government agencies that have demonstrated a legitimate lawful requirement.
Hooper, however, opened an account by falsely claiming the Navy required him to perform background checks on individuals.
Every report ran on the database was headed with the words "FOR GOVERNMENT PURPOSES ONLY."
But this didn't stop Hooper and his wife and co-defendant Natasha Chalk from using the account to steal the personal information of over 9000 individuals and then selling it to fraudsters on the dark web.
In the two and a half months that the scheme operated, Hooper and Chalk are said to have made US $160,000 in Bitcoin through their criminal endeavours.
Meanwhile, fraudsters were using the leaked information to commit crimes such as creating fake driving licenses, and attempt to withdraw money from victim's bank accounts.
Suspected of fraud, Hooper's database account was closed in December 2018. However, according to law enforcement Hooper and Chalk then tried to regain access to the data by offering to pay an unindicted co-conspirator $2,500 per month to open a new account under false pretences, and maintain their access.
To assist in the new application for access to the sensitive data, Hooper provided his co-conspirator with a fake contract that identified a further identity theft victim as a Navy supply officer authorizing the transaction. When the company asked for further verification, Hooper supplied a fake driver’s license for the victim and a fake letter from a commanding officer approving the access.
Fortunately, the company maintaining the database decided not to open the account, and countless innocent people's private information was protected from falling into the hands of fraudsters.
Marquis Hooper was sentenced to five years and five months in prison earlier this week. His wife Natasha Chalk, 39, is scheduled to be sentenced on November 20, 2023.
Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire.