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American IT scammer allegedly helped North Korea scam 300 US companies: Feds

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American IT scammer allegedly helped North Korea scam 300 US companies: Feds

Arizona woman has been accused of working with some persons related to the North Korean government in a plot to appropriate remote telework positions with different firms under the United States of America, according to federal prosecutors who said so on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors accuse Arizona woman and North Korean operatives of a $7M remote work scam.(Image created by Bing AI image creator)
Federal prosecutors accuse Arizona woman and North Korean operatives of a $7M remote work scam.(Image created by Bing AI image creator)

Christina Chapman was said to have worked with North Korean information technology employees Jiho Han, Chunji Jin, and many others as a part of a scam to get the identities of US citizens and get remote employment through fake identities by submitting false documents, the indictment says.

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The operation, as described by the prosecutors, was extensive and lucrative. Chapman and her accomplices are accused of exploiting the identities of over 60 U.S. residents to amass close to $7 million, which allegedly funded the North Korean government.

This sum was extracted from over 300 unsuspecting U.S. companies.

Notably, some of the enterprises impacted by this fraud are listed among the Fortune 500, spanning a major television network, a defence contractor, and an automobile manufacturer.

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Prosecutors uncover ‘laptop farm’ in scheme

Investigators have unearthed evidence suggesting that Chapman utilized laptops, deceitfully obtained under the guise of legitimate US residents, to orchestrate the appearance that her co-conspirators were operating from within the United States. This facade was part of a broader strategy to launder the salaries earned through the scheme.

The government’s case against Chapman includes the operation of a so-called “laptop farm,” a ploy that ultimately failed to secure employment for the conspirators within US government agencies, such as the Government Services Administration.

Chapman is accused of facilitating overseas workers’ connection to their remote jobs in the US through these laptops and collecting their paychecks at her residence.

As per a State Department memo, the trio of Han, Jin, and Xu are believed to be associated with the North Korean Munitions Industry Department—a body involved with ballistic missile and weapons production. The memo, which offers a $5 million reward for information disrupting this operation, implicates them in working alongside Chapman to funnel the ill-gotten gains back to North Korea.

“The charges in this case should be a wakeup call for American companies and government agencies that employ remote IT workers. These crimes benefitted the North Korean government, giving it a revenue stream and, in some instances, proprietary information stolen by the co-conspirators,” stated Nicole M. Argentieri, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

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The investigation has uncovered that since at least 2020, the implicated IT group has been actively engineering a remote-work fraud targeting U.S. companies, leading to the transmission of falsified identification details to government entities.

An unidentified individual approached Chapman via LinkedIn in March 2020, saying that she represented their company in the US. From August 2022 to November of the same year, North Korean operatives allegedly began compiling pertinent resumes. They leveraged an online background check system to pinpoint and steal the identities of specific American citizens.

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