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The NJLTA is pleased to present the latest news and advice from the Federal Bureau of Investigation:


To file a claim with the FBI regarding an internet crime:

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A Thief by Many Names


Atlanta Man Sentenced for Aggravated Identity Theft

The headquarters of a large national bank had detected fraud on an account and sent word to an Atlanta branch to be on alert: If an individual comes in to pick up the new debit card linked to that account, call the Atlanta Police Department.

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Cryptocurrency Fraudster Sentenced


Virtual Currency Scam Defrauded Investors of Millions

Even in the world of virtual currency, where value and possession exist largely in the digital realm, laws still apply and the repercussion of breaking them are very real.

The victims of Homero Joshua Garza’s virtual currency scam lost more than $9 million, and Garza will spend 21 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud. He has also been ordered to pay restitution to his victims.

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Financial Fraud


‘Godfather of Payday Lending’ Victimized Borrowers Nationwide

A 77-year-old former landfill owner and investment banker from Pennsylvania who came up with a surefire way to make money—by illegally charging high interest rates on loans made to those who could least afford them—will likely spend the remainder of his life in prison.

Charles Hallinan, dubbed by prosecutors as the “godfather of payday lending” because his tactics to circumvent state laws and hide his long-running scheme paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps, recently received a 14-year federal prison sentence for his role in collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in short-term loans with interest rates that approached 800 percent.

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Cyber Crime


Prolific Malware Developer Responsible for Countless Computer Intrusions

Not that they knew him personally, but Taylor Huddleston, a 27-year-old from Hot Springs, Arkansas, was for a time very popular among the world’s cyber criminals, thanks to a malicious piece of software he created called NanoCore RAT.

That malware allowed hackers to steal sensitive information from victims’ computers, including account numbers and passwords, and even allowed them to secretly activate the webcams of infected computers to spy on unsuspecting victims.

“Basically, the malicious software compromises victim computers and steals information,” said a special agent from the FBI’s Washington Field Office who investigated the case. “The NanoCore RAT has the ability to control a victim’s computer.”

This type of malware—a Remote Access Trojan (RAT)—is all the more insidious because in most cases victims have no idea their computers have been compromised. According to court documents, NanoCore RAT was used to infect and attempt to infect more than 100,000 computers.

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International Business E-Mail Compromise Takedown


Multiple Countries Involved in Coordinated Law Enforcement Effort

Today, federal authorities—including the Department of Justice and the FBI—announced a major coordinated law enforcement effort to disrupt international business e-mail compromise (BEC) schemes that are designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals. 

Operation WireWire—which also included the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the U.S. and overseas, including 42 in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

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Mortgage Fraud Fugitive Back in U.S.


Houston Building Contractor Receives Additional Prison Time for Fleeing Prior to Sentencing

On April 24, 2017, Houston-area building contractor Oscar Cantalicio Ortiz was scheduled to appear in a Houston federal courtroom to be sentenced following his June 2016 guilty plea in connection with a multi-million-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. But it soon became apparent that Ortiz was not going to show up for court, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Turns out that the 53-year-old Ortiz, who was permitted out on bond pending his sentencing as long as he wore a monitoring device on his ankle, had managed to get the device off and left it on the side of a road in southwest Houston. His abandoned car was found in a parking lot in the same part of town.

The FBI Houston Field Office—the same office responsible for investigating Ortiz’s illegal activities that resulted in his guilty plea—swung into action again. According to case agent James Hawkins, “As part of the FBI’s digital billboard initiative, we featured Ortiz on a number of Houston-area billboards beginning in June 2017, asking for the public’s help in finding him.”

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Investment Adviser Arrested For Stealing Millions From Clients

NEWARK, N.J. – A former broker and investment adviser was arrested today for allegedly stealing more than $2.1 million from two clients in order to pay for personal expenses, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced

Gary Basralian, 70, of Springfield, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with two counts of wire fraud and one count of investment adviser fraud. Basralian was arrested earlier today at his home and is scheduled to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court.     

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Internet Crime Complaint Center 2017 Internet Crime Report

The FBI has released the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) 2017 Internet Crime Report, which highlights scams trending online. In 2017, IC3 received a total of 301,580 complaints with reported losses exceeding $1.4 billion.

The 2017 Internet Crime Report emphasizes the IC3’s efforts in monitoring trending scams such as Business Email Compromise, Ransomware, Tech Support Fraud, and Extortion.

The most prevalent crime types reported by victims were:
► Non-Payment/Non-Delivery
►Personal Data Breach

The top three crime types with the highest reported loss were:

►Business Email Compromise
►Confidence/Romance fraud


From Lavish Lifestyle to Prison


Pittsburgh Mortgage Broker Defrauded Banks, Borrowers to Enrich Himself

With hundreds of pages of paperwork and thousands of dollars on the line, getting a mortgage can be a complex and intimidating transaction for homebuyers, who often depend on experts to get them through the process.

Unfortunately for some mortgage applicants in Western Pennsylvania, dishonest real estate professionals took advantage of that trust with fraudulent practices.

As the real estate market boomed before the 2008 crash, Pittsburgh-based Century III Home Equity was a successful brokerage, closing an estimated $100 million in loans annually. As a broker, the company acted as a middleman between the mortgage applicant and the lender, but the company’s employees manipulated both sides to enrich themselves. The owner—James Nassida, IV—and his loan officers misleadingly sold customers mortgage products that were not always appropriate for their financial situation but racked...

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International Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme


Two Sentenced in Wide-Reaching Criminal Conspiracy

A Texas businesswoman and a Texas lawyer were recently sentenced to lengthy federal prison terms for their roles in an international money laundering conspiracy that defrauded dozens of victims across the U.S. Both were also ordered to pay restitution of more than $3.7 million to their victims.

Last October, Priscilla Ann Ellis—after being convicted by a federal jury—received 40 years in prison, while attorney Perry Don Cortese received 25. Ellis’ daughter, Kenietta Rayshawn Johnson—who took part in the conspiracy as well—was sentenced to 40 months. Three additional individuals were also indicted as part of the conspiracy—one pleaded guilty and two are awaiting extradition from Canada. And eight other individuals have been charged separately.

And for Ellis, as if a 40-year prison term wasn’t long enough, she—while being temporarily held at a local jail right after her conviction in the money laundering conspiracy—tried to solicit other inmates to help her hire a hit man to murder several witnesses who had just testified again her at trial (and then attempted to undertake another financial fraud scheme to pay for the hit man). She was convicted on those charges in March of last year, ...

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Director Addresses Cyber Conference


Raising Our Game’ to Stay Head of Cyber Threats

As the threats from hackers and other cyber criminals grow, the FBI is committed to developing its workforce’s cyber expertise, building partnerships, and punishing cyber criminals who target the United States, FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a major cyber security conference this week.

“Today, we live much of our lives online, and we're in a situation where just about everything that is important to us lives on the Internet. And that’s a pretty scary thought for a lot of people,” Director Wray said. “What was once a minor threat—people hacking for fun or bragging rights—has now turned into full-blown nation-state economic espionage and very, very lucrative cyber criminal activity. The threat is now coming at us from all sides.”

Sponsored by the FBI and Fordham University, the International Conference on Cyber Security featured expert speakers—including several FBI officials—on a wide variety of cyber-related topics, ranging from botnets and malware to disinformation campaigns and attacks on critical infrastructure. Wray was joined in the conference’s opening ceremony...

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Theft of Federal Funds for Housing


Victims Included the Elderly, Homeless, and Mentally Disabled

Alternatives Living, Inc., was a non-profit organization in the New Orleans area with a stated mission of providing affordable housing to the elderly, homeless families, and individuals with mental disabilities. And through the state of Louisiana, the non-profit received funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to carry out its noble work—assisting about 660 clients annually, enabling them to live successfully within their communities.

Unfortunately, the chief financial officer (CFO) of Alternatives Living—Rickey Roberson—had another purpose as well: to use some of the funds from HUD, specifically earmarked for needy individuals, for his own personal gain. And as a result, there were clients who were not able to get the services that they needed.

How did this all start? In 2010, HUD had contracted with the state of Louisiana to administer its Community Development Block Grants in order to implement affordable housing programs throughout the state. Alternatives Living was one of the organizations...

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Internet Crime


IC3 a Virtual Complaint Desk for Online Fraud

That holiday card in your inbox? Think twice before clicking. That deep discount in your newsfeed on the season’s hot gadget? Does it seem too good to be true?

The FBI’s authority on Internet scams suggests keeping your guard up as holiday shopping season kicks in. The Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, is the Bureau’s virtual complaint desk for people who believe they have been victimized or defrauded online. The unit, established in 2000 in the FBI’s Cyber Division, receives about 800 complaints every day through its website,

“The scams that we get all year long are the same scams that happen around the holiday season,” said Donna Gregory, head of the IC3 unit, which is based in West Virginia. “It’s just that people are more apt to maybe fall for them during the holidays—especially for non-delivery scams or clicking on links for greeting cards that are actually malware.”

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Virtual Kidnapping


A New Twist on a Frightening Scam

Law enforcement agencies have been aware of virtual kidnapping fraud for at least two decades, but a recent FBI case illustrates how this frightening scam—once limited to Mexico and Southwest border states—has evolved so that U.S. residents anywhere could be potential victims.

Although virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme—one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death. Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats,

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FBI, This Week: Beware of Virtual Kidnapping for Ransom Schemes

Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: The FBI wants to prevent you and your loved ones from becoming victims of virtual kidnapping for ransom schemes.

Virtual kidnappings happen when victims are coerced over the phone to pay ransom because they believe a family member has been kidnapped or is at risk of being kidnapped.

No one is actually physically kidnapped in these schemes, but victims like Valerie Sobel say the threats feel frighteningly real…

Valerie Sobel: It took me about three, four days before my hands stopped shaking. It definitely had a very, very bad effect.

Halpern: Perpetrators of these schemes exploit social media and other technology to carry out their crimes.

Supervisory Special Agent Michael Kelley says these prevalent schemes are evolving…

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2017


Protecting Yourself Online in an Interconnected World

As hacks, data breaches, and other cyber-enabled crime become increasingly commonplace, this year’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month is an important reminder of the need to take steps to protect yourself and your family when using the Internet. Launched in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance, ...

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Cyber Crime

The FBI is the lead federal agency for investigating cyber attacks by criminals, overseas adversaries, and terrorists. The threat is incredibly serious—and growing. Cyber intrusions are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated. Our nation’s critical infrastructure, including both private and public sector networks, are targeted by adversaries. American companies are targeted for trade secrets and other sensitive corporate data, and universities for their cutting-edge research and development. Citizens are targeted by fraudsters and identity thieves, and children are targeted by online predators. Just as the FBI transformed itself to better address the terrorist threat after the 9/11 attacks, it is undertaking a similar transformation to address the pervasive and evolving cyber threat. This means enhancing the Cyber Division’s...

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Bankruptcy Fraud


Wife Stole Husband’s Identity, Retirement Account

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Business E-Mail Compromise 

An Emerging Global Threat


The accountant for a U.S. company recently received an e-mail from her chief executive, who was on vacation out of the country, requesting a transfer of funds...

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December 20, 2016

FBI Warns of Dramatic Increase in Business E-Mail Compromise Scams


The FBI Boston Division is warning of a dramatic rise in business e-mail compromise scams or BECs, which target businesses of all sizes and types and have resulted in massive financial losses in Boston and other cities...

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FBI warns of surge in wire-transfer fraud via spoofed emails

(Reuters) - Attempts at cyber wire fraud globally, via emails purporting to be from trusted business associates, surged in the last seven months of 2016, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a warning to businesses.

Fraudsters sought to steal $5.3 billion through...

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