Eleven people are facing charges in the U.S., India, China and Romania for their involvement with websites offering email hacking services, police said.
Mark Anthony Townsend, 45, of Cedarville, AR, and Joshua Alan Tabor, 29, of Prairie Grove, AR, faces felony charges of hacking into nearly 6,000 email accounts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said Friday.
Townsend and Tabor operated a website called needapassword.com through which they offered to obtain, for a fee, the passwords to email accounts supplied by other users, FBI officials said. They received payments via PayPal.
Three other U.S. residents face misdemeanor charges of hiring email hackers from foreign countries. John Ross Jesensky, 30, of Northridge, CA, paid $21,675 to a Chinese website to get email account passwords, the FBI said. Laith Nona, 31, of Troy, MI, and Arthur Drake, 55, of Bronx, NY, paid $1,081 and $1,011 respectively for similar services, the FBI said.
The five defendants should plead guilty in the coming weeks, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The cases relate to an international law enforcement operation in four countries that also resulted in the arrest of six people in India, China and Romania.
Prosecutors from the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism, known as DIICOT, charged and detained four people believed to have offered email hacking services through several websites: zhackgroup.com, spyhackgroup.com, rajahackers.com, clickhack.com, ghostgroup.org, and e-mail-hackers.com, the FBI said.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the scheme run by the Romanian suspects affected 1,600 email accounts between February 2011 and October 2012. However, a news release Friday from DIICOT that only mentioned house searches said the suspects hacked into more than 2,000 email accounts for fees between $50 and $200.
In India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Amit Tiwari for running the websites www.hirehacker.net and www.anonymiti.com, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Law enforcement officials in India conducted searches at his and associates’ residences.
India’s CBI didn’t name the arrested suspect in its own news release Friday but said he is from Pune. The suspect and his associates gained unauthorized access to more than 900 email accounts between February 2011 and February 2013 for fees between $250 to $500, the CBI said.
In China, the Ministry of Public Safety arrested Ying Liu, also known as Brent Liu, saying he operated a website called hiretohack.net. Liu gained access to over 300 email accounts without authorization between January 2012 and March 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Click here for more information on the FBI arrest.