A resident of New Haven, Connecticut has been sentenced to one year in prison after running a profitable darknet phishing scheme.
Michael Richo, 37, managed to make himself over $350,000 after hacking into more than 10,000 accounts owned by dark web users.
Richo’s Phishing Technique
Evidence produced in court shows that Richo specifically targeted dark web users.
He used a self-engineered computerized system that would send him the users’ credentials after they logged into his sites.
In order to lure people into his phishing scheme, he created websites similar to darknet market sites.
He also created fake online links resembling links created by other darknet users.
Once the unsuspecting users clicked on the link, they would be redirected to his fraudulent website instead of the genuine website.
A login prompt would then appear on the screen where users would enter passwords which would be sent to Richo.
In this way, his computerized system enabled him to receive login credentials of numerous darknet users.
This also allowed him to see how many Bitcoin funds the target darknet user had in their account and monitor every transaction therein.
Once the Bitcoin wallet showed a deposit, he would withdraw the coins just before the account owner had the chance to use them or convert them to cash.
He would then deposit the stolen coins into his own Bitcoin wallet or trade them on currency markets to get fiat currency in exchange.
This would then be wired to bank accounts under his name, from where he would access funds through international money transfer companies such as MoneyGram and Western Union or through debit cards such as Green Dot Cards.
Richo was arrested in October 2016 after authorities caught him stealing identities and transferring cryptocurrency to his wallet without consent from account owners.
A search of his residence revealed computers and other electronic devices used to obtain user passwords through malicious software.
A variety of precious metals and coins were also found in his possession, all of which were reported to have been purchased using the money he siphoned out of victims’ accounts.
Law enforcement ordered him to forfeit the money he stole together with every other item he purchased with the stolen money.
Richo was charged with identity theft, computer fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
At the time, Richo was due to be sentenced to up to 30 years jail term if found guilty of all charges against him.
However, following a plea agreement in June 2017, he was released on bond under computer monitoring conditions.
Earlier this month, he was arraigned before a New Haven magistrate where he was sentenced to 366 days behind prison bars.
The judge also ruled that following his release, Richo is to be put on monitored release for a period of three years.