Two U.K. teens and twenty-somethings received a collective prison sentence of fifteen years after administering the Ghost Market criminal forum, a meeting place and a classroom where nefarious individuals found anything from banking malware to methamphetamine recipes.
Gary Paul Kelly, an unemployed 21 resident of Manchester, U.K., Nicholas Webber, a 19 year old student, Ryan Thomas, an 18 year old web designer, and Shakira Ricardo, an unemployed 21 year old all pled guilty to running what was said to be the world’s largest English-language online criminal forum, according to the U.K.’s Metroploitan Police Service.
The arrests followed an eleven month investigation of the Ghost Market forum, a hub for information on credit and debit card fraud, the creation and exchange of malware, including the infamous Zeus Trojan, the establishment and maintenance of botnets, and tutorials on how to evade and frustrate law enforcement, run successful phishing scams, encode and press plastics with credit card information, hack into sites, build bombs, and brew crystal meth.
Webber was identified as the ring leader for having established the site and acted as its administrator. A search of Webber’s home revealed a computer containing guidelines on how to commit a number of criminal offences.
Kelly was responsible for the construction of the site itself as well as for the distribution of the Zeus Trojan which compromised over 15,000 computers in 150 countries. Police said that passwords obtained in Kelly’s interrogation allowed them to piece together the operation of the forum.
Through the site’s reconstruction, detective secured evidence of Ricardo’s involvement.
Things started to disintegrate on October 12, 2010, after Webber and Thomas were arrested at a London hotel attempting to rent the penthouse suite with a stolen credit card. Personal belongings were seized, including their laptops and business cards with the Ghost Market logo on them. The two then skipped bail and flew to Palma, Majorca and lived in flat at Port D’andrax until their eventual arrest at Gatick Airport on January 29.
Analysis of seized computers from the defendants found more than 130,000 credit card numbers, which were responsible for roughly £15.8 million in losses, according to a statement from The Metropolitan Police.