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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

U.S. Attorney Totten: "Online thieves like these think they will never be caught. They are wrong"

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U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney sentenced Miami, Fla., resident Cedric Smith to 70 months in prison following a West Michigan federal case.

Smith was the last of three Miami residents charged in the case with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to an Aug. 8 Department of Justice news release.

“Online thieves like these think they will never be caught because they can hide on the internet. They are wrong," U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said in the release. "We have the tools to identify and hunt them down, even if they committed their crimes from hundreds of miles away. And that is what we will do.”

A grand jury, assembled in February 2021, charged Cedric Smith, Daja Smith and Devonte Hoskins with the identity theft of various bank and credit union customers before using said information to commit widespread fraud, the release reported. Before Cedric Smith's sentencing, Judge Maloney sentenced Daja Smith and Hoskins to five years and six years in prison, respectively.

The defendants identified potential targets' online accounts by buying illegally-obtained personal information from computer hackers online, according to the release. The defendants then posed as bank security personnel and called customers, convincing them to share the onetime code a bank sends its customers to aid them in resetting their passwords, getting access to their passwords and money in their accounts. The defendants then drained the victims' accounts and moved the money to their personal bank accounts.

The defendants operated in Miami and targeted bank customers across the country, including those belonging to United Federal Credit Union in St. Joseph, Mich. Total losses are approximately $1,400,000, the release reported.

“These defendants may have thought they were beyond the reach of law enforcement because their crimes were committed entirely online," said FBI Michigan Special Agent in Charge James A. Tarasca, according to the release. “They were sorely mistaken. The FBI treats these types of financial crimes very seriously and we will use our considerable resources to bring cybercriminals to justice.”

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