A Phoenix man convicted for his role in the international cybercrime syndicate known as Carder.su was sentenced in Las Vegas to 20 years in federal prison Thursday.
David Camez, 22, whose online nicknames were “Bad Man” and “Doctorsex,” also was ordered to share in the restitution of nearly $51 million and serve three years of supervised release after prison.
Camez was found guilty of racketeering charges following a three week-jury trial late last year in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon.
He is the only one of 55 Carder.su members charged in four separate 2012 indictments to go to trial.
Roughly 20 defendants have pleaded guilty in the unprecedented criminal case, and of the handful who have been sentenced so far, all have gotten only two years in prison, according to federal prosecutors. Two-dozen defendants, including the group’s Russian leaders Roman Zolotarev and Konstantin Lopatin are still at large.
This is the first time the Justice Department has used federal racketeering statutes to go after a cybercrime syndicate. The far-reaching case was jointly prosecuted by the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office and the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Gang Section in Washington.
Top federal prosecutors Thursday hailed the tough sentence for Camez, who has been in federal custody.
“Camez was a member of a vast criminal organization that facilitated rampant cyber fraud throughout the world,” said David O’Neil, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “This organization is the new face of organized crime – a highly structured cyber network operated like a business to commit fraud on a global scale.
“Members, like Camez, paid to tap into the network and gain control of highly sensitive information, like compromised credit card numbers and stolen identities. Thanks to sophisticated law enforcement efforts, Camez will now pay for his crimes with decades in prison.”
Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, who attended the sentencing, added: “As shown in this case, cybercrime has grown into an industry and is rapidly overtaking traditional crime, such as bank robbery. Cybercrime was once viewed as the crime wave of the future but in reality, that threat is here now.”
Prosecutors had sought a 40-year prison term for Camez, once described as a “significant participant” in the worldwide criminal enterprise. His lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, argued for seven years behind bars to run concurrently with a seven-year term Camez is serving in Arizona for similar crimes.
Rasmussen said putting Camez in prison for a lengthy period would have little impact on widespread credit card fraud and identity theft.
“The credit card companies need to be doing more to protect their own customers,” he told Gordon.
Camez showed little remorse but told the court he wants to “wake up and try to change my life.”
Rasmussen attributed most of Camez’s dealings within Carder.su to minor youthful indiscretions. He became involved at the age of 17.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn said Camez participated in a wide range of criminal conduct beyond fraud and identity theft, including trafficking in drugs and weapons.
“This young man was unequivocally engaged in criminal activities across-the-board,” she told Gordon.
Frayn also pointed out the many victims who suffered the heartache of having their identities stolen by the Carder.su organization.
Gordon said he had sympathy for the victims because he, too, is an identity theft victim.
“You appear to be a pretty smart guy,” Gordon told Camez. “It’s a shame you used your talents in a bad way. Your history tells me I need to protect the public from you.”
The judge said 20 years in prison was enough to do the job.
According to prosecutors, hundreds of thousands of Americans and several financial institutions were victimized by the Carder.su organization, which had more than 7,800 members worldwide.
The sophisticated group, which found Las Vegas an ideal place to operate, is alleged to have committed more than $50 million worth of financial fraud and likely would have caused three times more losses had it not been broken up, prosecutors contended.
The indictments in the case resulted from a 4½-year investigation, Operation Open Market, which took off after Michael Adams, then a U.S. Secret Service agent in Las Vegas, went infiltrated the secretive criminal organization.
Adams, now an agent with U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, testified at trial that he assumed the online nickname “Celtic” previously used by a man arrested in Las Vegas for credit card fraud in 2007. With the man’s cooperation, Adams become a trusted Carder.su vendor selling counterfeit driver’s licenses. Prosecutors alleged Camez was a customer.
On Thursday, Adams testified that federal agents recovered 210,000 stolen credit and debit account numbers in raids on the Carder.su organization.
Camez had nearly 2,000 compromised account numbers in his possession, Adams said.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter @JGermanRJ.