COUNTY NEWS: Cyber criminal jailed over £840,000 global fraud

A 29-year-old cyber criminal from Sussex has been jailed for his involvement in a crime syndicate that stole £840,000 from bank accounts across the world.

Skowron was linked to a major online banking fraud. Picture: Metropolitan Police
Skowron was linked to a major online banking fraud. Picture: Metropolitan Police

This follows an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Falcon Cyber Crime Unit.

Tomasz Skowron of Meredith Road, Worthing was sentenced to five years and three months’ imprisonment on Monday, December 19 at Croydon Crown Court.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, fraud and money laundering offences, a spokesperson for Metropolitan Police said.

Skowron was linked to a major online banking fraud after detectives from the Met’s Falcon (Fraud and Linked Crime Online) Cyber Crime Unit identified that he was responsible for several fraudulent payments into money mule accounts, and that several thousand pounds had also been paid directly into accounts under his control, the Met said.

In December 2014, a malware virus infected computers and victims around the world, with several victims and companies in Australia being affected.

From intelligence received from the banking industry, officers identified several fraudulent payments had been made from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia into UK bank accounts, the Met said.

Working closely with the banks involved, officers managed to identify a common IP address that was linked to several of the payments made into UK accounts.

Further enquiries led officers to identify that the IP address was registered to Skowron’s address and he was arrested by detectives on December 9, 2014, the spokesperson said.

Detectives seized computers and phones and from detailed forensic analysis of the devices, they found evidence and messages that confirmed Skowron was involved in arranging fraudulent payments to be made into various ‘money mule’ accounts.

Text messages found on Skowron’s phones - some of which he tried to delete and hide from detectives - revealed that he was working with another man, Piotr Ptach to identify and recruit ‘money mules’ - individuals whose accounts they could use to transfer proceeds of frauds into, before the funds get moved on again, withdrawn and laundered, police say.

During the course of the investigation officers also linked Skowron to two separate cyber attacks against UK construction companies where the companies had fallen victim to ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks in April 2014.

Employees had unwittingly downloaded malware onto their system, which enables cyber criminals and fraudsters to then track online banking login details.

The criminals then use this information to log into the victim’s bank accounts and make fraudulent balance transfers into accounts owned, or controlled by the criminal network, police say.

In total, the two companies lost around £500,000 to the cyber attacks, and officers identified that approximately £39,000 had been transferred into a bank account Skowron had opened himself just nine days before the fraud took place.

After further enquiries Skowron was eventually charged in June 2016 with the above offences.

Ptach, 31 of no fixed abode was also charged in November 2015 with fraud and money laundering offences, to which he pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in March 2016.

Detective constable Jody Stanger, from the Met’s Operation Falcon Cyber Crime Unit, who investigated the case said: “Skowron played a significant part in a wider criminal network that was responsible for several high-value frauds using malware.

“The proceeds of this fraud were then laundered through an organised money mule network.

“This conviction and sentence is the culmination of a long and complex investigation and shows that we will relentlessly pursue criminals involved in serious and organised crime online.”

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage

2) Like our Facebook page

3) Follow us on Twitter

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

Always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.