Suspect in Telephone-Related Extortion Scheme Appeared in Federal Court

Suspect in Telephone-Related Extortion Scheme Appeared in Federal Court

On Tuesday, a complaint was unsealed charging Hani Kabbara, a Canadian citizen, with conspiracy to commit access device fraud. According to the complaint, the defendant was the mastermind pf a sophisticated scheme that used overseas call centers to conduct telephone extortion scams to extract financial products from victims called MoneyPaks. These MoneyPaks were then sold in online criminal forums or converted to cash by Kabbara using fraudulently-obtained prepaid debit cards. The defendant was scheduled to appear on Tuesday afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Steve M. Gold at the U.S. Courthouse in the Brooklyn New York.

The charges were announced by Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI).

As alleged in the complaint, the defendant obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in MoneyPaks from victims of his extortion schemes he ran from his overseas call centers. He demanded payment from his victims in the form of MoneyPaks, which are vouchers that can be loaded with funds and used to fund prepaid debit cards.

The defendant sold the MoneyPaks in online criminal forums or, with his co-conspirators, transferred the funds onto prepaid debit cards, which themselves were obtained using stolen personally identifiable information. The defendant and his co-conspirators, who communicated with each other anonymously in cyberspace through dark web forums and encrypted chat applications, then used a crew of workers in and around New York Metropolitan area to withdraw funds from the debit cards, consolidate the cash, and send it back to the defendant in Canada.

The defendant was arrested in New York City on August 1, 2016.

“Cybercriminals terrorize innocent, often elderly, victims through the use of telephone extortion schemes and believe they can operate with impunity behind encrypted chats and online monikers,” stated United States Attorney Capers. “Today’s arrest send the message that we are watching,we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”

“As alleged, Kabbara was a mastermind of scheme. First, he used a call center to extort victims for hundreds of thousands of dollars using MoneyPaks. Then he and his co-conspirators moved those funds to pre-paid debit cards, which were obtained using stolen personal information. The FBI is committed to investigating those who commit cybercrime and bringing them to justice, no matter where in the world they may reside,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.