Justice Dept. makes arrests in North Korean identity theft scheme involving thousands of IT workers

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has announced arrests in a series of complex identity theft cases, which officials say are part of a broader scheme that generates vast amounts of revenue for the North Korean government, including weapons programs. claims to be part of it.

The plot involved thousands of North Korean information technology workers, who prosecutors say were sent by the government to live overseas and used stolen American identities. He said he has secured remote employment at U.S.-based Fortune 500 companies, giving him access to sensitive companies. Data and high salaries. Companies were unaware that their workers were overseas.

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The fraud scheme is a way for North Korea, which is cut off from the U.S. financial system and faces strict sanctions, to take advantage of the “toxic material” of serious factors, including a lack of high-tech labor in the U.S. and the prevalence of remote work. It is. Marshall Miller, the Justice Department’s principal deputy attorney general, spoke about the possibility of telework in an interview.

The Department of Justice seal photographed in Washington on November 18, 2022. The Department of Justice announced the arrests of three people in a complex identity theft scheme. Officials claim the program brings huge profits to the North Korean government, including its weapons program. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Department of Justice said this case is a broader effort to not only prosecute the individuals who committed the fraud, but also to build partnerships with other countries and warn private companies to be wary of actual fraud and not to be deceived. It states that it is part of its strategy. The identity of the people they employ.

FBI and Justice Department officials launched an effort focused on the fraud scheme in March, and announced last year that they had seized more than a dozen website domains used by North Korean IT officials.

“Increasingly, the compliance programs of American businesses and organizations are at the forefront of national security,” Miller said. “Corporate compliance and national security are now more intertwined than ever before.”

The Justice Department said in court documents in one case that more than 300 companies were affected, including high-end retail chains and “Silicon Valley’s top technology companies,” resulting in more than $6.8 million in revenue for employees. Ta. , based outside the United States, including in China and Russia.

Among those arrested was Christina Marie Chapman, an Arizona woman who prosecutors say helped workers obtain and verify stolen personal information. It alleges that it facilitated the scheme by receiving laptops from U.S. companies that thought they were sending the devices to legitimate employees and hosting them so workers could connect remotely. To companies.

According to the indictment, Chapman ran multiple “laptop farms” where U.S. companies sent computers and paychecks to IT employees who were unaware they were located overseas.

Chapman’s laptop farm allegedly connected overseas IT employees who logged in remotely to the company’s network, making the logins appear to be coming from the United States. She is also said to have been collecting salaries of overseas IT employees at her home, forging beneficiary signatures for overseas transfers, and charging monthly fees to line her own pockets.

Other defendants include Oleksandr Didenko, a Ukrainian man who prosecutors say created fake accounts on a job search platform and then sold them to overseas workers applying for jobs at U.S. companies. claims. He was arrested in Poland last week, and the Justice Department said it had seized his company’s online domain.

Minh Phuong Vuong, a Vietnamese national, was arrested in Maryland on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining a job at a U.S. company by a remote worker based overseas who was actually pretending to be him.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the three had lawyers.


Separately, the State Department announced it would offer a reward for information about some North Korean IT workers who officials say were assisted by Chapman.

The FBI, which conducted the investigation, issued a public service announcement warning companies about the scheme, encouraging them to implement identity verification standards throughout the hiring process and educating human resources and hiring managers about the threat.