The Department of Justice announced the indictment of twin brothers Muneeb and Sohaib Akhter, of Springfield, Virginia on multiple charges.
On April 30, the Department of Justice indicted the Akhter brothers. They were charged with aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to access a protected computer without authorization, access of a protected computer without authorization, conspiracy to access a government computer without authorization, false statements, and obstruction of justice.
The Alleged Crime
According to the indictment, beginning in or about March 2014, the Akhter brothers and co-conspirators hacked into the website of a cosmetics company and stole its customers’ credit card and personal information. They used the stolen information to purchase goods and services, including flights, hotel reservations, and attendance at professional conferences. In addition, the brothers and co-conspirators devised a scheme to hack into computer systems at the U.S. Department of State to access network traffic and to obtain passport information.
“In addition, the brothers and co-conspirators devised a scheme to hack into computer systems at the U.S. Department of State to access network traffic and to obtain passport information,” the release stated.
Specifically, an affidavit signed by Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Gershon Ross in support of a criminal complaint states that in June, 2014, Ross learned that Muneed Akhter, who was then a DHS contractor, raised a few red flags:
- Muneeb Akhter was boasting about hacking several e-commerce websites including Subway, Starbucks and an unspecified airline.
- On questioning him the next day, Muneeb Akhter gave him a sworn statement admitting to creating a code that hacked several websites including Kmart, Shell Gasoline, Whole Foods, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.
- The code also allowed him to add funds to gift cards without actually having to expend any real funds.
Ross notes that when he searched Facebook for information on the twins, he found a Facebook page that appeared to be for Sohaib Akhter. That page had an image a United Airlines boarding pass for “Sohaib Akhter” departing January 19, 2015, from Washington, DC, to San Francisco, CA, on United Airlines flight 782. United Airlines confirmed that the flight was paid for with an American Express card. The card owner told Ross that she/he had not authorized that purchase, that the account had been closed as a result of credit card fraud.
Muneeb Akhter faces a maximum penalty of 59 years in prison if convicted on all counts, and Sohaib Akhter faces a maximum penalty of 39 years in prison if convicted on all counts. They are of course, presumed innocent until convicted.