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Last week, Tripwire explored the story of Aleksei Shushliannikov, a hacker who is responsible for having used ransomware in an attempt to launder money from victims via MoneyPak.

We now report on the story of Lance Ealy, a computer criminal recently brought to justice for having filed fake tax refund requests on more than 150 Americans.

According to an investigation conducted by Brian Krebs, Ealy allegedly filed no less than 150 fake tax returns on Americans between January 28, 2013, and October 13, 2013. These returns instructed the Internal Revenue Service to send all refunds to several prepaid card accounts under his control.

Source: Krebs on Security

A criminal complaint submitted against Ealy by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio explains that the fraudster filed at least a third of his fake returns using stolen Social Security numbers he purchased from, a now defunct identity theft service.

In total, Ealy purchased approximately 363 “fullz,” or packages of people’s personal information, from one Hieu Minh Ngo, a Vietnamese national who for at least two years prior had been posing as a private investigator in an attempt to cipher personal information from data brokers. Ngo targeted several large brokers as part of his scheme; Court Ventures, a company acquired by credit bureau Experian in 2012, may have been one of his biggest scores.

Ngo was arrested in 2012 after a U.S. Secret Service undercover agent lured him into Guam with a fake business deal. At around that same time, the Secret Service assumed control of Ngo’s service in an attempt to identify and apprehend some of his former customers. It did not take long for the Secret Service to arrest Ealy.

In November of last year, facing 46 counts of fraudulent activity, Ealy decided to cut off his electronic monitoring device and go into hiding just days before a jury was to hand down a guilty verdict for his crimes.

During his time on the run, Ealy sent a series of legal arguments to the authorities requesting a retrial, but those pleas for innocence did not dissuade him from continuing to file fake tax returns. Not even the loss of deterred him. He merely chose to pay off several inmates in the Ohio prison system for their permission to file fake tax returns in their names.

Ultimately, the authorities were never far behind Ealy. It was only a matter of time before they would once again bring him into custody.

Sure enough, that day came earlier this month when a multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of the U.S. Marshalls Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and 13 other law enforcement agencies apprehended Ealy in Atlanta, Georgia.

As of this writing, Ealy is currently awaiting extradition back to Ohio.


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