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Man sentenced for role computer-hacking scam; $150K stolen from Kalispell woman | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker | #hacking | #aihp

MISSOULA — An Indian national has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for his part in stealing $150,000 from a Kalispell woman through an international computer-hacking scheme.

The scheme targeted elderly Americans nationwide and resulted in more than $1.2 million in total losses, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich stated.

The defendant, Sukhdev Vaid, 24, of Haryana, India, pleaded guilty in December 2023 to wire fraud. The court further ordered that after being released from custody, Vaid would be remanded to the Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement for deportation. Vaid was also ordered to pay $1,236,470 restitution.

“It has become all too common for people outside of our country to victimize Montanans, especially as it relates to wire fraud, and get away with it. But not this time. Vaid is going to federal prison due to the sophistication and tenacity of the FBI, for which I am grateful. We will continue to be relentless in tracking down these criminals who prey on our trusting impulses, and we are confident such efforts will result in these fraudsters ending up in the same place as Vaid,” Laslovich said.

“’Phantom Hacker’ scams layer imposter tech support, financial, and government personas to gain access to someone’s computer and personal information. Sadly, these scams are increasingly targeting our seniors. Adding to the depravity of this particular case is that the scammer traveled overseas to collect victim’s money in person,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha of the Salt Lake City FBI. “To protect yourself, never click on unsolicited pop-ups, links sent by text message or email, don’t download software at the request of someone you don’t know, and always remember that the government and law enforcement will never call and ask you for money.”

“In an era where innocent folks increasingly fall victim to these types of crimes, I am pleased that our office played an active role in the capture, prosecution, and ultimate conviction of these individuals,” Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said. “While we know that the convictions of Mr. Vaid and Mr. Joseph cannot fully replace the emotional and financial loss experienced by the victims, they do ensure that these individuals will not have the ability to prey upon our citizens during their time of incarceration. It is a reminder to all citizens that these scams occur frequently and can be devastating. I urge everyone to exercise caution; do not allow strangers access to your computer, bank accounts, or personal information,” Heino said.

In a statement to the court, the Montana victim said, “I feel very violated…I have crawled into a shell emotionally and don’t want to be vulnerable in any way. I don’t know who I can safely trust now. I don’t feel safe at all.”

A victim from outside Montana wrote to the court, “I’m driving a 2007 car, and this loss has prevented me from affording a new car. The cost of living keeps going up, which doesn’t help when on a fixed income. I’m not sure I will ever have peace of mind again and trust others. This has cost me more than any monetary loss.”

The government alleged in court documents that a large enterprise originating from India was involved in stealing $1,236,470 from elderly Americans.

The Montana case arose in February 2023, when Glacier Bank notified the FBI that Jane Doe, a 73-year-old woman in Kalispell, had been defrauded. The fraudsters tricked Jane Doe into giving them money through a pop-up notice that appeared on Jane Doe’s computer screen. The notice explained that Jane Doe had been “hacked” and for her to call a number for customer support. Jane Doe complied, and fraudsters directed her to remove cash from her bank accounts for safe keeping at the “Fed.” Jane Doe complied and gave $150,000 in cash to the fraudsters.

After learning of the scam, the FBI set up a ruse in which Jane Doe told the fraudsters she still had $50,000 in cash. The FBI arrested Vaid, along with his co-defendant, Eddly Joseph, of Gainesville, Florida, when they traveled to Montana to collect the money. The investigation determined that the fraudsters remotely accessed Jane Doe’s computer, using UltraViewer, which they installed on her computer.

Joseph was sentenced previously to two years and nine months in prison for his conviction in the case.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided over the sentencing .

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon prosecuted the case. The FBI and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation.

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