Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that defendant ARIFUL HAQUE was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for participating in a tech support fraud scheme. This plot exploited victims, including elderly victims, by remotely accessing their computers and convincing victims to pay for computer support services they did not need and which were never provided. As part of this scheme, HAQUE registered an alleged tech support company, which defrauded more than 100 victims located in the United States and Canada. HAQUE previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty, who imposed today’s sentence.
US Attorney Damian Williams said: “Ariful Haque participated in a conspiracy that caused pop-ups to appear on victims’ computers, pop-ups that falsely claimed that a virus had infected the computer. of the victim. Through this and other misrepresentations, this fraudulent scheme resulted in dozens of victims across the country paying perpetrators hundreds or thousands of dollars for computer support services they did not need. Thanks to our partners at Homeland Security Investigations, this scheme was busted and another participant was sentenced to prison.
According to the allegations contained in the replacement information, court filings and statements made in court:
From November 2017 to approximately June 2019, HAQUE was a member of a criminal fraud ring (the “Fraud Ring”) based in the United States and India that engaged in a technical support fraud scheme that exploited approximately 20 of victims located in the United States and Canada. , including the Southern District of New York. The main goal of Fraud Ring was to trick victims into believing that their computers were infected with malware, in order to trick them into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for bogus computer repair services.
The scheme generally worked as follows. First, the Fraud Ring caused pop-ups to appear on victims’ computers. The pop-ups falsely claimed that a virus had infected the victim’s computer. The pop-up prompted the victim to call a particular phone number for technical support. In at least some cases, the pop-up threatened victims that if they restarted or shut down their computer, it could “cause severe system damage”, including “complete loss of data”. In an attempt to give a false appearance of legitimacy, in some cases the pop-up included the corporate logo of a well-known and legitimate tech company without permission. In fact, no viruses had infected the victims’ computers and the tech support phone numbers were not associated with the legitimate technology company. On the contrary, these representations were false and intended to induce victims to pay the Fraud Ring to “fix” a problem that did not exist. And while the so-called “virus” was a hoax, the pop-up itself caused various victims’ computers to completely “freeze”, preventing them from accessing data and files on their computers, prompting some victims to call the phone number given in the pop-up window. In exchange for the victims paying several hundred or thousands of dollars (depending on the precise “service” the victims purchased), the alleged technician remotely accessed the victim’s computer and ran an anti-virus tool, free and available online. The Fraud Ring has also re-victimized various victims, after they made payments to supposedly “fix” their technical issues.
The Fraud Ring operated through at least 15 fraudulent entities. In November 2017, HAQUE registered one such fraudulent entity in New York State. The HAQUE entity defrauded more than a hundred victims under this scheme. As part of its involvement in the fraud, HAQUE opened US bank accounts to receive funds from victims, deposited victim checks, received a victim complaint and repeatedly provided to a co-conspirator in India (“CC-1”) authentication codes so that CC-1 could withdraw funds from these bank accounts. HAQUE, a former bank branch manager in New York, also attempted to use his banking experience to further the scheme, including informing CC-1 that he was “[n]It’s not a good idea to “deposit” certain checks, some of which would risk “federal” involvement. which had also registered another fraudulent entity as part of the Fraud Ring.In total, as he admitted in his plea agreement, HAQUE is liable for losses exceeding $600,000.
* * *
In addition to his prison sentence, HAQUE, 36, of Queens, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, forfeiture of $38,886.32 and restitution of $470,672.16.
HAQUE’s co-defendant, Romana Leyva, had previously been sentenced to 100 months in prison, three years of probation, forfeiture of $4,679,586.93 and restitution of $2,707,882.91.
Mr. Williams commended the El Dorado Cyber Intrusion/Cyber Fraud Group of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their outstanding work on the investigation. Mr. Williams also thanked the New York City Police Department for their assistance in the case.
This case is being handled by the Bureau’s Complex Fraud and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael D. Neff and Jilan J. Kamal are charged with the prosecution.