Vietnamese man gets 13 years for massive ID theft scheme

A Vietnamese man linked to a data breach of 200 million personal records at a subsidiary of credit monitoring firm Experian has been sentenced to 13 years in prison, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Hieu Minh Ngo, 25, was sentenced Tuesday on charges including wire fraud and identity fraud in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, the DOJ said.

Ngo was linked to a data breach at Court Ventures, a data broker Experian purchased in 2012.

Ngo apparently tricked Court Ventures into giving him access to a personal records database by posing as a private investigator from Singapore, according to news reports. Much of the information about the breach came out when he pleaded guilty to multiple charges in March 2014 in the New Hampshire court.

Ngo was arrested in Guam in February 2013, according to court documents. He had been selling personal information, including credit card numbers and Social Security numbers, since 2007, and had about 1,300 customers at the time of his arrest, according to court information. Ngo allowed his customers to make more than 3 million queries of the database compromised through Court Ventures.

From Vietnam, Ngo sold stolen identities of U.S. residents through online marketplaces to “more than a thousand cybercriminals scattered throughout the world,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell of the DOJ said in a statement. “Criminals buy and sell stolen identity information because they see it as a low-risk, high-reward proposition. Identifying and prosecuting cybercriminals like Ngo is one of the ways we’re working to change that cost-benefit analysis.”

As part of his guilty plea, Ngo told the DOJ that he operated online marketplaces selling personal information from 2007 to 2013. These packages of personal information, known as “fullz,” typically included a person’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, bank account number and bank routing number. Ngo also acquired and sold stolen payment card data, including credit card numbers, expiration dates and owners’ addresses and phone numbers, the DOJ said.

Ngo made nearly US$2 million from selling personal information, the DOJ said. More than 13,000 U.S. residents whose personal data was sold on Ngo’s websites were victims when criminals filed $65 million in fraudulent individual income tax returns, the DOJ said.

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