A Colombian man pleaded guilty yesterday to a 16-county indictment involving an identity theft scheme in which he installed keylogging software on hotel business centre computers and internet lounges in order to steal passwords, account data and other personal information, the US Department of Justice has announced.
The computer fraud scheme had more than 600 victims worldwide, including US Department of Defense employees, the DOJ said. Mario Simbaqueba Bonilla, 40, used money obtained in the scheme to buy expensive electronic devices, including a home theatre system, and to fund luxury travel to Hong Kong, France, Jamaica, the US and other locations, according to a DOJ news release and the indictment in US District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Simbaqueba Bonilla, sometimes working with a co-conspirator, used a series of complex computer intrusions to steal money from payroll, bank and other accounts, the DOJ said. Much of the identity theft activity targeted US residents, including employees of the Department of Defense.
Simbaqueba Bonilla used the data he intercepted from his victims, who were typically guests at hotels throughout the US, to steal or divert money from their accounts into other accounts he had created in the names of other people he had victimised in the same way, the DOJ said. Through a complex series of electronic transactions designed to cover his trail, Simbaqueba Bonilla would transfer the stolen money to credit, cash or debit cards and have the cards mailed to himself and others at Pak Mail and other commercial mailing addresses.
Federal agents arrested Simbaqueba Bonilla when he flew into the US in August.
Simbaqueba Bonilla was flying on an airline ticket purchased with stolen funds, and had in his possession a laptop also purchased with stolen funds, the DOJ said. That laptop contained the names, passwords and other personal and financial information of more than 600 people.
R. Alexander Acosta, US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, warned travelers to think twice before entering personal information on a public computer.
"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case," Acosta said in a statement. "The internet is an outstanding tool, but it is vulnerable. Criminals like Bonilla use the internet to steal our banking and personal data, and then our money."
The DOJ was assisted in the investigation by the Department of Defense, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the US Postal Inspection Service.