Botnet: US and allies arrest suspected cybercrime boss, seize millions from sports cars in major Covid-19 fraud operation


A 35-year-old Chinese man was arrested in Singapore and millions of dollars in cars, watches and real estate seized in a blockbuster raid on a global cybercriminal network that defrauded the US government of billions of dollars , the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The Chinese man, YunHe Wang, is accused of helping build a vast network of infected computers, known as a botnet, which was used to issue bomb threats, send exploitative material children online and commit financial fraud, among other schemes, the department says. . Fraudsters used the botnet to submit tens of thousands of false applications for federal aid during the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in losses of approximately $5.9 billion, according to filings from the Justice and Treasury departments.

The cybercriminal’s alleged ringleader and the lavish lifestyle he financed “feel like something out of a script,” said Matthew Axelrod, a senior U.S. Commerce Department official involved in the investigation. investigation, in a press release.

Law enforcement seized about $4 million worth of watches, sports cars and other luxury goods, including a Ferrari and a Rolls-Royce, as well as $30 million worth of real estate in Asia the East, the Middle East, the Caribbean and the United States, Brett Leatherman, a senior FBI official told reporters. Wang used money he earned from renting the botnet to purchase property in those locations, according to an unsealed indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Authorities in Singapore and Thailand worked with the FBI on the case, the Justice Department said.

Court records do not list an attorney for Wang. Leatherman said the U.S. government was pursuing his extradition to the United States and an investigation into other potential suspects was underway.

Wang and other alleged members of the criminal network used a virtual private network (VPN) to distribute their malicious code, infecting 19 million different IP addresses around the world, including more than 600,000 in the United States, according to prosecutors . IP addresses are unique numbers that correspond to individual devices on the Internet.

These new accusations are just the latest alleged example of opportunistic fraud that has plagued the United States since the outbreak of Covid-19 more than four years ago. Fraudsters took advantage of opportunities to exploit the more than $2 trillion federal economic stimulus package known as the CARES Act, a 2020 law that the botnet allegedly targeted.

The problem has become so serious that the Secret Service has appointed a top official as the National Fraud Pandemic Recovery Coordinator to try to recover some of the many billions stolen.

Such frauds continue. The IRS said in March it was investigating money laundering and tax cases linked to Covid-19 fraud, potentially worth about $9 billion, more than half of which came from of files opened last year.

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