A cyber crime conviction in Las Vegas could have dramatic implications for similar cases across the country for years to come.
A federal jury in Nevada found 22-year-old, David Ray Camez, guilty of violating the RICO Act ("Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations") for purchasing a fake ID on the website Carder.Su in May, 2009. The Department of Justice celebrated its victory, and analysts close to the case suggest that prosecutors around the nation, including here in Florida, may soon start using RICO to target cyber criminals. (More on what that might mean, below.)
Here's the background on the case. Congress enacted RICO in 1970 to help federal authorities crack down on organized crime, such as the mafia and street gangs. Section 1962(c) is key. It states that it is “unlawful for any person, employer or a buyer associated with any enterprise engaged in or the activities of which effect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprises or affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.”
It may sound extraordinary to think that a 22-year-old conducting criminal affairs on a website might be considered legally “akin” to a gang member or Mafioso. But, by virtue of RICO, even a low level criminal, like Camez, can face punishments for every crime made under the auspices of Carder.Su, a kind of eBay for cyber crimes, where syndicate members buy, sell and trade counterfeit IDs, hacker technologies, stolen credit cards, and stolen ID information.
All told, the government alleged that the users of Carder.Su committed around 7,900 crimes, which caused over $50 million in losses. As a result of his association with the site, Camez could face two decades or more behind bars. (His attorney claimed that the DOJ had "steamrolled" Camez.)
The Secret Service infiltrated the online community, under the fake name “Celtic,” and proceeded to distribute 100 very real looking fake IDs to criminals around the globe. The Secret Service worked with the Nevada DMV on this project, so the IDs almost certainly looked the part. Camez got involved when he paid Celtic several hundred dollars for a falsified Arizona driver’s license. The ringleaders of Carder.Su have also been indicted, but many of them live overseas (e.g. in Russia), so they are safe from the long arm of U.S. law, at least for now.
Camez will be sentenced in April. Several other low level defendants – also members of Carder.Su – will face their sentencing hearings in February.
New Challenges for Florida Cyber Crime Defendants: Will You Face RICO Charges?
Prosecutors like RICO, because it affords them several tactical options that they typically can't use when leveraging the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). These include:
• More stringent penalties -- convicted RICO offenders can get 20 years to life behinds bars, for instance;
• Prosecutors can leverage RICO to prevent defendants from accessing assets they collected through racketeering to finance their defenses;
• RICO lets prosecutors hold a single defendant accountable for a much larger group, such as a mob or a drug gang, even if that defendant didn’t participate at a high level in the enterprise.
If you’ve been accused of a cyber crime in Florida, connect today with the experienced team here atSeltzer Mayberg, LLC, to explore your potential defense options. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days week at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333), or you can connect with us online.