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Romain Farina, the director of a school in Villefontaine, France, possessed a massive cache of child pornography, investigators recently discovered. Authorities indicted Farina in 2015 after he sexually abused numerous adolescents who attended his school. Two years later, after a second search of the man’s residence, authorities found hard drives that connected Farina to a darknet identity named “pedo-master.”
Between the 2015 arrest of the headmaster and his later suicide in a jail cell, investigators searched the man’s house and came up empty-handed. In mid-March, 2017, authorities conducted another search of his home. They searched his house—fully—upon the realization that they ignored the attic in prior searches. The attic search yielded several storage mediums. The details released failed to fully clarify if the search team also found electronic devices with user interfaces or not. However, the drives contained 500,000 photos and 11,000 videos of child pornography featuring his students. Farina both created the films with his students and uploaded them to darknet forums.
Sébastien Lopez, the father of a child Farina abused, read the report from a forensic laboratory. He explained that the videos featured 26 students—and all of them responded to Farina on a first name basis. Lopez said that officials reported that they identified all 26 victims. They matched previous victim lists, the forensic analysis read. However, Lopez’s lawyer warned that as many as ten of the names featured in the films and uploaded online caused enough concern for a re-analysis.
Jean-Yves Coquillat, the case prosecutor, updated the public once word spread. He explained that authorities identified all 26 names on the list. In the name of utmost caution, he said, the police planned new checks.
“It’s terrible,” Lopez said. “The families of these 26 children are not civil parties in this case, so they have not been informed of these new revelations.” He explained that since many families knew nothing of the incident’s specific details, they lacked the ability to see the information that he saw.
He continued, “they [the families] need to know what their children have suffered for these children to be helped, listened to, and followed. It is up to the state to take care of that matter.The State must take charge of these child victims.”
Lopez credited the investigators but felt saddened by the lack of thoroughness shown the first time around. If authorities checked the attic and “discovered these pieces of evidence, this would have allowed the families involved to lodge a complaint.” He added, “now the investigation will surely end because the main suspect is dead.” Farina ended his own life in his jail cell in 2016. At that time, only Lopez and his child knew any case details. The evidence that the headmaster uploaded pictures of these children to the darknet, however, only recently came to light. The true full extent of the case just surfaced in early 2017.
Maître Rajon, the lawyer for the Collective of Families, formed in Saint-Clair-de-la-Tour, said “I have not been able to read this report. I get calls from anguished families who want to know if their child is part of the victims. It’s horrible.” Rajon, too, applied as a civil party. The court has not yet offered a response however. These recent findings developed over the course of two–three days.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Grenoble received the new evidence and report but made no announcement regarding the next steps. Prosecutors rarely continue with cases once the primary suspect dies, Farina’s attorney explained. He said that the Ministry of National Education “was aware of these new facts and should react during the day.”
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In June, 2014, Homeland Security Investigations in Mississippi began an investigation into Milad Kalantari, an Iranian citizen. Throughout the course of the investigation, HSI learned that Kalantari ran an “international fraud organization.” More specifically, they learned that the 32-year-old Iranian ran multiple websites that sold stolen credit card information. After a multi-year provided, the case closed on March 9, 2017, when U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr sentenced Kalantari to 120 months in federal prison.
Judge Louis Guirola Jr of the Southern District of Mississippi convicted Kalantari of crimes that warranted two sentences. For the first charge, access device fraud, the district judge ordered a 120-month sentence. And the second charge(s), conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud, the district judge ordered a 60-month sentence. Both served concurrently. He also ordered Kalantari pay $36.6 million in restitution.
He fell under investigation during a larger investigation into the Yahoo Boys, a West African criminal organization. According to an investigating agent, “the Yahoo Boys use international hackers and underground Iranian, Russian and Vietnamese groups to conduct financial fraud schemes.” In addition to the websites where Kalantari sold financial information, he ran underground carding forums, the agent explained. The U.S. then indicted the Iranian in a 16-count indictment.
On December 21, 2015, Kalantari landed in the United States at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. He knew nothing of the indictment and entered the country of his free will. Federal agents from three states arrested him at the airport upon touchdown. In a previous Yahoo chat with a co-conspirator, an undercover federal agent learned that Kalantari claimed he won a U.S. visa. The co-conspirator unknowingly told an undercover federal agent that the then-suspect planned to move to the U.S.
Since the 1990s, the U.S. hosted the United States Diversified State Lottery. Non-U.S. citizens “won” visas in the so-called “green card lottery.” The agent, according to the affidavit, checked with the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and learned that Kalantari indeed ”won” a U.S. visa. The embassy, and State Department confirmed Kalantari’s schedule and plans—law enforcement knew when and where the Iranian planned on entering the U.S.
HSI investigators linked Kalantari to the financial crimes after they conducted a search of his electronic devices. The Iranian’s email gave him away. He contacted his sister who attended college in the United States on a student visa. One email he sent to his sister included his bank information in Iran and home address in Sari, Mazandaran. They also discovered evidence that connected Kalantari to several of the online carding websites and stolen credit cards themselves.
On October 6, 2016, Kalantari pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud. Along with the first two charges, he also pleaded guilty to one count of substantive access device fraud. In this case, substantive access device fraud referred both to the damage he caused the victims and the criminal intent behind the device fraud.
Court documents revealed that federal agents made purchases on Kalantari’s carding forums. In three purchases, agents reported that they received stolen credit card information from 68 victims in Mississippi. Among the thousands of individual victims, Keesler Federal Credit Union and Coastal Bank and Trust also reported great losses. Additionally, “one woman’s card number was used four times for $100 each at a Dunkin Donuts.”
“Kalantari sold approximately 2.5 million stolen credit cards on his websites, with an intended loss amount valued at over $1.2 billion,” the press release announced. “More than $35 million in actual losses have been confirmed with U.S. companies including more than $26 million in losses to Discover Card and almost $5 million in losses to American Express.”
The federal case appeared only in Mississippi. Kalantari will likely serve only 120 months and pay $36.6 million in restitution; some of his crimes allowed other states a chance at prosecution as well. The U.S. cracked down on online financial crimes this year. In February, 2017, a member of an international cybercrime group that caused $71m in damage received a 48-month prison sentence.
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On March 15, 2017, the Department of Justice announced an indictment that charged hackers in connection with the 2014 Yahoo breach. In late 2016, Yahoo announced that unidentified hackers breached 500 million user accounts. With the accounts, the hackers stole login credentials and any information that came with them. Along with the first indictment, the DoJ charged two FSB agents in a second indictment – also allegedly connected to the Yahoo breach.
Milan Patel, a former FBI Cyber Division special agent said the charges “illustrate the murky world of Russian intel services using criminal hackers in a wide variety of ways.” the two FSB agents, according to the DoJ, sought data from the Yahoo breach for intelligence purposes.
One of the two hackers in the first indictment, Alexsey Belan, landed on the U.S.’s most-wanted cyber criminal list several years ago. He slipped through the FBI’s fingers several times.
The other man charged in the first indictment—the hacking indictment—held a Canadian citizenship. Canadian authorities arrested Karim Baratov, alleged “hacker-for-hire,” on March 14—a day before the indictment.
U.S. authorities claimed that both men worked as “hackers-for-hire.” The Russian connection, according to the DoJ, landed in the list of contractors that hired the hackers. DoJ officials announced that Russia hired both hackers, potentially more than once. Alexsey Belan, a Russian citizen, avoided incarceration several times, according to the FBI themselves. They stated that between January 2014–December 2016, Alexsey Belan conspired with FSB officers, including both in the second indictment—Dmitry Aleksandrovich Dokuchaev, Igor Anatolyevich Sushchin.
Alexsey Belan, the FBI wrote, worked with the FSB to “gain unauthorized access to the computer networks of and user accounts hosted at major companies providing worldwide webmail and internet-related services.” On February 28, 2017, a United States District Court in the Northern District of California issue an arrest warrant for Belan. The indictment charged him for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse; unauthorized computer access for financial gain; causing computer damage by hacking; economic espionage; theft of trade secrets; access device fraud; and wire fraud.
And in 2012–2013, a United States District Court in Nevada indicted Belan after a hacker breached the network of a Nevada-based company. The indictment accused him of data theft from a locked computer; “possession of fifteen or more unauthorized access devices;” and aggravated identity theft. In the same period, the Northern District of California District Court charged him with similar crimes after he allegedly hacked a California company. Their indictment charged him with two counts of computer fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
“The FSB officer defendants, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, protected, directed, facilitated and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the U.S. and elsewhere,” the DoJ announced. “In the present case, they worked with co-defendants Alexsey Belan and Karim Baratov to obtain access to the email accounts of thousands of individuals.”
Additionally, in December 2016, former President Obama imposed economic sanctions on Russia for suspected election hacking. The government imposed sanctions on two Russian hackers—Belan’s name landed on the sanction list. Obama never mentioned a connection between Belan and the Yahoo hacks.
The FSB officers indicted by the DoJ, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, enabled both hackers in connection with the Yahoo hack. Authorities in Moscow arrested Dokuchaev in December. He passed information to the CIA, U.S., authorities claimed. Sushchin worked above Dokuchaev and enabled his actions, according to the indictment.
According to the documentation:
“Instead of acting on the U.S. government’s Red Notice and detaining Belan after his return, Dokuchaev and Sushchin subsequently used him to gain unauthorized access to Yahoo’s network. In or around November and December 2014, Belan stole a copy of at least a portion of Yahoo’s User Database (UDB), a Yahoo trade secret that contained, among other data, subscriber information including users’ names, recovery email accounts, phone numbers and certain information required to manually create, or “mint,” account authentication web browser “cookies” for more than 500 million Yahoo accounts.”
Authorities in Russia arrested both FSB officers for unrelated crimes and Canadian authorities arrested Karim Baratov. Greece captured Alexsey Belan momentarily but gave him to Russia. Or, according to the US, Russia took the hacker from Greece and placed him under Russian protection.
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