In the real world, it seems the more effort put into constructing locks and security systems to safeguard our possessions; lawbreakers develop abilities to build enhanced keys, and a superior illicit method to gain access to what is being guarded. Protecting the contents of our homes, cash and valuables is an ever-present, unending challenge. But in the Cyber world the level of sophistication reached by criminals responsible for computer incursions and hacking activities is constantly tested by our ability to thwart their entry.
The phenomena of modern technology has grown exponentially over the past have century. And most individuals use the Internet for a variety of purposes. For the most part when we visit our online banking or brokerage accounts the belief is that the transactions that are processed are secure, encrypted, and veiled from prying eyes.
But clever cyber-crooks are always out there, lurking in the shadows constantly attempting to find ways to cash in on activities in this virtual world.
Petr Murmylyuk, a.k.a. Dmitry Tokar, a Russian National who made his home in Brooklyn, NY is one of those shadow lurkers.
Murmylyuk’s cultivated knowledge in the workings of computers was substantiated by his arrest in November, 2011 when he was caught red-handed with a laptop in his possession containing more than enough evidence to implicate him in a substantial scam, along with his accomplices.
The Complaint against Murmylyuk asserts that he, along with an accomplice recruited Russian, as well as other foreign nationals in an online stock rigging scheme. The foreigners were either already living in the United States, or were visiting. Some were students. Three residents of Houston, Texas: Mikhail Shatov, Anton Mezentsev and Galina Korelina were among them as well as other unnamed participants. The group was instructed to open new bank accounts where illegal profits resultant from the proposed operation would be deposited.
Murmylyuk’s hacking abilities allowed him to gain illegal entry to online accounts of brokerage firm customer accounts at Fidelity, Scottrade, E-Trade, and Schwab among other brokerage firms not specifically listed. Telephone numbers and email addresses of the owners were then altered giving the group complete control of the hacked accounts. He and his connections then used identities that were originally illegally obtained or stolen to open new accounts at other brokerage houses. These accounts were termed “Profit Accounts” in the Information. After this method was introduced, they then made irrational and unprofitable trades using the victimized accounts leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the “Profit Accounts”.
An example of the swindle involved initiating trades that sold options contracts directly to the “Profit Accounts”. After the trade was offered the same contracts were specifically purchased back minutes later for “at times” almost ten times the original price. They also used “short selling” to achieve the same results. (Selling an issue short is a sale of stock that a shareholder doesn’t actually own, but instead borrows from an investor willing to do so with the hope of eventually returning it after the stock price drops resulting in a profit to the original shareholder who “sold it short”.)
This was done by using the “Profit Accounts” offering a short sale of a stock at a worth grossly inflated above the market price for that particular day for the given stock. Moments after the offering was proposed on the open market from the Hackers Accounts, the Hackers used their ability over the Victim Accounts to purchase the shares of the stock at the inflated price, which resulted in a profit for the owner of the “Profit Account” at the Victim Account’s expense. Murmylyuk and/or his associates then covered the falsified short sale by re-purchasing the security which was borrowed at the lower market price.
All proceeds were then transferred from the “Profit Accounts” into the new accounts and then transmitted to the bank accounts that were opened by Mezentsev, Korelina and Shatov as well as others involved in the scheme.
The profits received by Murmylyuk and his associates, generated by the scam, resulted in combined losses of roughly $1 million to the three named major brokerage houses as well as others.
Mikhail Shatov, Anton Mezentsev and Galina Korelina were previously charged in New Jersey and convicted for charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. U. S. District Judge Esther Salas sentenced Mezentsev to 27 months in federal prison. Korelina and Shatov were sentenced to14 months each, earlier in 2012.
Murmylyuk was formally charged in April, 2012, charged with unauthorized access to computers, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and securities fraud. The SEC is also filing a comparable civil action. He is currently in state custody looking at charges from a separate investigation directed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office where he is charged with identity theft of more than three-hundred individuals that were unemployed. He then allegedly collected bogus tax returns using their names and information.
Murmylyuk has pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to commit securities fraud charge. He pleaded guilty to identity theft and tax fraud charges earlier. He’ll face a $250,000 fine and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the New Jersey case and fifteen years in prison for the case against him brought forward by the Manhattan district attorney. Sentencing is scheduled for November 12 for the securities fraud case.