A federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted three people, and five people were arrested in Italy, all in connection with the hacking into the IT systems of thousands of companies around the world to gain free access to telephone services, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
A multinational team of investigators worked jointly to round up the alleged hackers and their financial backers in the scheme to hack into the systems of many companies -- 2,500 in the U.S. alone -- to steal access codes that the victim companies used to route phone calls through telecom systems, the office said..
The value of all the stolen services was unclear, though the U.S. Attorney's office said the thieves routed more than $55 million worth of telephone calls over telecommunications networks in the U.S.
"This was an extensive and well-organized criminal network that worked across continents," said New Jersey's Acting U.S. Attorney. Ralph J. Marra Jr., in a statement. "The hackers we've charged enabled their conspirators in Italy and elsewhere to steal large amounts of telecommunications' capacity, which could then be used to further or finance just about any sort of nefarious activity here or overseas."
Italian officials said in a press conference that the proceeds from the group's scam funded Islamic fundamentalist groups in Southeast Asia. The five people people arrested in early morning raids in Italy are all citizens of Pakistan. They allegedly financed in the operation.
The U.S. indictment names one citizen of Jordan, and two Philippine nationals, who had already been arrested in the Philippines in March 2007 in connection with the same theft. The U.S. indictments charge the three people -- Mahmoud Nusier, 40, Paul Michael Kwan, 27, and Nancy Gomez, 24 -- with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized access to computer systems and possession of unauthorized access devices, including pass codes to U.S. telephone systems. Each faces up to 20 years in prison.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Liebermann.