Overview[edit | edit source]
The Western Express Cybercrime Group, was a multinational, Internet-based cybercrime group composed of vendors, buyers, cybercrime services providers, and money movers located in numerous countries, ranging from Ukraine and throughout Eastern Europe to the United States. The vendors sold nearly 100,000 stolen credit card numbers and other personal identification information through the Internet, taking payment mostly in e-Gold and WebMoney. The buyers used the stolen identities to forge credit cards and purchase expensive merchandise, which they fenced (including via reshipping schemes), committing additional crimes, such as larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, and fraud, and generating about USD 5 million in credit card fraud proceeds. The cybercrime services providers promoted, facilitated, and aided in the purchase, sale and fraudulent use of stolen credit card numbers and other personal identifying information by providing computer services to the vendors and the buyers. The money mover laundered the cybercrime group's illicit proceeds in a variety of high-tech ways.
The hub of the entire operation was Western Express International, Inc., a New York corporation based in Manhattan that operated as a virtual currency exchanger and unregistered money transmitter to coordinate and facilitate the Internet payment methods used by the criminal enterprise, and to launder the group's proceeds. One of the largest virtual currency exchangers in the United States, Western Express International exchanged a total of USD 15 million in WebMoney and USD 20 million in e-Gold for the cybercrime group and used banks and traditional money transmitters to move large sums of money. It also provided information and assistance through its websites (including Dengiforum.com and Paycard2000.com) on ways to move money anonymously and to insulate oneself from reporting requirements.
Western Express International and its owner/operator, a Ukrainian national, plead guilty in February 2013 in New York State to money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy offenses. Three other defendants were convicted after trial in June 2013; several more plead guilty in August 2009. Two indicted defendants remain fugitives.