US Charges NiceHash Founder With Hacking, Fraud

By , 10 Jun 2019, 09:09 AM News
US Charges NiceHash Founder With Hacking, Fraud pixabay.com, rgayman CC-by-0

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STA, 9 June 2019 - A US federal court in Washington, DC, has unsealed an indictment charging an America, a Spaniard and two Slovenians with racketeering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud through Darkode, a major computer hacking forum. Each of them could be sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The two suspects from Slovenia are Matjaž Škorjanc, 32, and Mentor Leniqi, a 35-year old Serbian citizen, who are together with the Spanish citizen still fugitives.

The US authorities issued arrest warrants for them, while US citizen Thomas McCormick, 26, was arrested last December, a few days after the sealed indictments were filed, according to a US Attorney Office release.

McCormick is said to be the last administrator of Darkode, which is said to have been created by Škorjanc, its first administrator.

Related: NiceHash Hacked, 4,700 Bitcoins Stolen

Darkode was an online, password-protected forum where international hackers and other cyber criminals convened to develop, buy, sell, trade and share hacking tools.

It was closed in 2015 in a major international sting termed Shrouded Horizon, which was carried out in 19 countries.

Related: Former CEO Pulls Out of NiceHash

The investigation was conducted by the FBI's Washington Field Office with assistance from Europol and their European Cyber Crime Center.

The four suspects are accused of gaining access to bank accounts and credit cards to commit identity theft, whereby causing a damage of US$4.5 million, in 2008-2013.

Škorjanc is also accused of creating malware Butterfly or the Mariposa botnet, and selling it on Darkode.

Related: NiceHash Returns 60% of Stolen Bitcoins, Now Worth 70% Less

Škorjanc has a criminal record in Slovenia. In December 2013 he was sentenced to four years and ten months in prison as the Mariposa botnet mastermind.

Leniqi, one of his co-defendants, pleaded guilty in a pre-trial hearing in 2012, striking a deal with the prosecution to get a year and three months in jail.

Coming out of prison, Škorjanc set up bitcoin-mining marketplace NiceHash, which was hacked in 2017, with some 4,700 bitcoins, at the time worth EUR 56 million, stolen.

Related: Learn Slovene with Hackers

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