Online fraudsters jailed for using malware to empty victims’ bank accounts

The Birmingham Crown Court recently awarded separate prison sentences to three online fraudsters who used malicious software to infiltrate computers owned by victims across the country and transferred tens of thousands of pounds to their own accounts.

The three online fraudsters, namely Usman Khan, Abhay Singh, and Naveed Pasha, carried out a large number of malware attacks targeting innocent victims across the UK between January 2016 and January 2019 before they were arrested by the London Metropolitan Police.

The online fraudsters used malicious software to infiltrate people's computer systems, accessed bank accounts of individuals and businesses, fraudulently transferred tens of thousands of pounds from each account to their own bank accounts, and then used a network of "mule" accounts to launder large sums of money over a three year period.

Usman Khan, who was the leader of the cyber crime ring, used several aliases, assumed multiple identities, set up gas and tax accounts to legitimise his activities, and opened bank accounts under false identities to launder the stolen funds to a criminal network.

According to Met Police, between January 2016 and March 2017, Usman Khan also collaborated with another cyber criminal named Vugar Mollachiev who was later jailed for nine years after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.

After arresting Mollachiev, Met Police gained access to 46,700 lines of interaction between Khan and Mollachiev on an encrypted messaging app and the records of these conversations gave them further insight into the activities of Khan and his co-conspirators.

Online fraudsters stole up to £40,000 a day using malware and used fake identities to launder the money

"His role at that time was to provide and control UK bank accounts to allow fraudulently obtained money to be transferred through – known as mule accounts. The money in these accounts would eventually be withdrawn and supplied to a criminal network. Within the messages discovered on Mollachiev’s device, officers found additional conversations demonstrating Khan’s desire to become further involved in the deployment of malicious software," Met Police said.

"Between February 2016 and March 2017 Khan is involved in thousands of conversations discussing the fraudulent movement of up to £40,000 a day into mule bank accounts from both personal and business victim bank accounts. His offending was first discovered when on 2 March 2016 the owner of a private company noticed two fraudulent debits which had been completed on the company’s online banking platform – both for approximately £24,000.

"In March 2017 Khan and his co-conspirators defrauded a school out of more than £15,000, in November 2017 they defrauded a victim out of her life savings – approximately £45,000, in March 2017 and May 2017 they stole £10,000 and £16,600 respectively from other personal accounts," it added.

Based on evidence gathered by law enforcement agencies across the UK, the Birmingham Crown Court jailed Khan for four years and six months, Abay Singh for three years and four months, and Naveed Pasha for two years, suspended for one year and nine months. While Singh hails from Crown Mews, Abingdon, Khan is a resident of Pershore Road, Birmingham and Pasha resides in Wyndhurst Road, Birmingham.

"The impact of this fraud upon individuals and businesses both small and large should not be underestimated. This group of criminals stole tens of thousands from individuals, businesses, schools and other organisations. They showed no regard for the livelihoods of members of the public, or the future of some businesses during the course of their action," said DS Gavin McKay from Central Specialist Crime.

"I am pleased with the sentence these individuals have received. It should send a clear message to anyone considering carrying out such crimes that we have the ability and expertise to track you down and bring you to justice. This has been a lengthy and highly complex investigation, and I am incredibly proud of my colleagues’ endeavours in bringing these three men before the courts."

Phil Larratt from the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit said that cyber criminals rely heavily on money launderers like Khan and his associates who, in this case, ensured a criminal network were able to access thousands of pounds they stole from victims.

"This was a highly complex investigation that dismantled a cyber crime and money laundering organised crime group. Today’s result demonstrates the benefit of collaborative working across Team Cyber UK," he added.

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