John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that MICHAEL RICHO, 37, of New Haven and formerly of Wallingford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to 12 months and one day of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for fraud and money laundering offenses in connection with a scheme to steal bitcoins in an online phishing scheme. Judge Bryant also ordered Richo to pay a $10,000 fine and to forfeit various computers and electronic devices, an assortment of precious coins and metals that he bought with the proceeds of his offense, and $352,500 in cash.
According to the court documents and statements made in court, Richo engaged in an online phishing scheme to steal bitcoins from individuals on the dark web. Bitcoins are a form of electronic currency, and online marketplaces on the dark web typically accept them as a payment method. Richo carried out the scheme by posting fake links to online marketplaces on dark web forums. The links directed individuals to fake login pages that looked like the real login pages for the various online marketplaces. When an individual attempted to log in, Richo stole his or her username and password. Once he had an individual’s username and password, Richo monitored the individual’s bitcoin balance at the real marketplace. If the individual later deposited bitcoins with the real marketplace, Richo withdrew the bitcoins before the individual could spend them and caused the stolen bitcoins to be deposited into his own bitcoin wallet. He then sold the stolen bitcoins to others in exchange for U.S. currency, which was deposited into bank accounts that he controlled or was provided to him through Green Dot Cards, Western Union transfers, and MoneyGram transfers.
In total, Richo obtained more than $365,000 through his scheme. He also had more than 10,000 stolen usernames and passwords saved on his computer.
Richo was arrested on a federal criminal complaint on October 5, 2016. On June 27, 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of access device fraud and one count of money laundering.
This matter was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.