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For years, fake remote IT workers in U.S. companies were earning millions for North Korea

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The U.S. Justice Department has announced a prosecution of an Arizona woman, a Ukrainian man, and three unidentified foreign nationals who allegedly tricked more than 300 American companies into thinking that they were employing local IT workers. In reality, those were citizens of North Korea, SecurityAffairs reported.

The 49-year-old Christina Marie Chapman from Arizona helped to operate the fraudulent scheme that generated at least $6.8 million of revenue, allegedly benefitting the North Korean government. The Department of Justice has explained:

“Chapman ran a ‘laptop farm,’ hosting the overseas IT workers’ computers inside her home so it appeared that the computers were located in the United States, and also received and forged payroll checks and received direct deposits of the overseas IT workers’ wages from the U.S. companies into her U.S. financial accounts.

“The overseas IT workers associated with Chapman’s cell were paid millions for their work, much of which has been falsely reported to the IRS and the Social Security Administration in the name of the actual U.S. persons whose identities were stolen or borrowed. Chapman also allegedly conspired with the John Doe defendants to commit money laundering by conducting financial transactions under aliases to receive money generated by the scheme and transfer those funds outside of the United States, in an attempt to hide that these were proceeds of the IT workers’ fraud.”

Fake IT workers even applied for jobs at two different U.S. government agencies on three different occasions, although unsuccessfully.

From what is known, at least 20 overseas IT workers were involved in the scheme that included compromising more than 60 identities of U.S. persons, causing false information to be conveyed to DHS on more than 100 occasions, and creating false tax liabilities for more than 35 U.S. persons.

Chapman is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, aggravated identity theft, and several other crimes, facing a maximum penalty of 97.5 years in prison.

Her co-conspirator, a 27-year-old Ukrainian citizen, Oleksandr Didenko, allegedly also owned and operated U.S.-based online infrastructure, including his own laptop farms. If convicted, Didenko faces a maximum penalty of 67.5 years in prison.

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