Suspected email hackers for hire charged in four countries

Authorities in the U.S., India, China and Romania crack down on websites offering email hacking services

By Lucian Constantin, IDG News Service |  Security

Eleven people were charged in the U.S., India, China and Romania for their suspected involvement with websites offering email hacking services.

Mark Anthony Townsend, 45, of Cedarville, Arkansas, and Joshua Alan Tabor, 29, of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, were charged with a felony offense for hacking into nearly 6,000 email accounts, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California announced Friday. Authorities believe 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. The payments were received via PayPal.

Three other U.S. residents were charged with misdemeanor offenses for hiring email hackers from foreign countries. John Ross Jesensky, 30, of Northridge, California, is believed to have paid US$21,675 to a Chinese website to get e-mail account passwords. Laith Nona, 31, of Troy, Michigan, and Arthur Drake, 55, of Bronx, New York, are suspected to have paid $1,081 and $1,011 respectively for similar services.

The five defendants are expected to plead guilty in the coming weeks, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The cases are related 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 who are 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.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the scheme run by the Romanian suspects affected around 1,600 email accounts between Feb. 2011 and Oct. 2012. However, a news release Friday from DIICOT that only mentioned house searches said the suspects hacked into over 2,000 email accounts for fees between $50 and $200.

In India, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested a man named Amit Tiwari for running the websites www.hirehacker.net and www.anonymiti.com, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Searches have also been executed at his and associates' residences.

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