Friday, January 31, 2020

Former scientist from Los Alamos National Laboratory pleads guilty in federal court to making false statement about involvement with Chinese government technology program

            ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Turab Lookman, 67, of Sante Fe, New Mexico, and a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, pleaded guilty in federal court in Albuquerque today to a charge of making a false statement to a government investigator about his involvement in the Thousand Talents Program, an initiative by the Chinese government to recruit people with access to and knowledge of foreign technology and intellectual property.

            A grand jury previously indicted Lookman on May 22, 2019, on three counts of making false statements to the federal government.  In his plea agreement, Lookman admitted to lying to a counterintelligence investigator from Los Alamos National Laboratory on June 6, 2018.  The investigator asked Lookman if he had been recruited by or applied for a job with the Thousand Talents Program.  Lookman knowingly made a false statement by answering “no” when he knew that he had in fact been recruited by, applied for, and been accepted for participation in the Thousand Talents Program for monetary compensation.  

            Lookman is currently out of custody awaiting sentencing.  He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

            The FBI investigated this case with support from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Assistant U.S. Attorney George C. Kraehe is prosecuting the case.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Colorado Man Pleads Guilty to Racketeering Charges Related to Darknet Marketplace AlphaBay

FRESNO, Calif. — Bryan Connor Herrell, 25, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, Herrell was a moderator on the AlphaBay marketplace, an illegal website that operated on the so-called darknet. On AlphaBay, vendors and purchasers engaged in hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions for guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers and other illegal items. At the time, AlphaBay was considered to be the world’s largest online drug marketplace.

As a moderator on AlphaBay, Herrell settled disputes between vendors and purchasers and settled over 20,000 disputes. He is also accused of serving as a scam watcher — providing a service dedicated to monitor attempts to defraud AlphaBay users. Herrell went by the monikers “Penissmith” and “Botah” and was paid in bitcoin for his participation.

On June 1, 2017, a Fresno grand jury indicted the alleged founder of AlphaBay, Alexandre Cazes, and four days later the Royal Thai Police, with assistance from the FBI and DEA, arrested him at his residence in Bangkok, in connection with his alleged involvement with AlphaBay. At the time of his arrest, law enforcement discovered Cazes’s laptop open and in an unencrypted state. Agents and officers found several text files that identified the passwords/passkeys for the AlphaBay website, the AlphaBay servers, and other online identities associated with AlphaBay. The indictment against Cazes was dismissed as a result of his death. The investigation of AlphaBay and its former administrators continues.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Hemesath and Grant B. Rabenn, and Senior Counsel Louisa K. Marion of the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case.

Herrell is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Portland Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Cyber Intrusion of Former Employer

PORTLAND, Ore.—On January 22, 2020, Kristopher Ives, 33, of Portland, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for illegally accessing the computer network and data of his former employer, Gearbox Studios, after being terminated.

According to court documents, in 2008, Ives began working as a computer programmer for Gearbox Studios, a Portland-based digital marketing agency. Ives eventually became Gearbox Studio’s lead programmer for server architecture and support, a position of trust with access to the computer networks and data of both the company and the company’s clients.

Between February and May 2015, after being terminated from his position, Ives illegally accessed Gearbox’s computers to steal and tamper with data. He used this data to attack Gearbox’s servers and various websites belonging to Gearbox customers. Ives deleted nearly 20,000 products from customer websites and changed prices for various items. Ives also stole names and credit card numbers from these Gearbox customer websites and threatened to release the information unless Gearbox made payment to a bitcoin address.

On October 18, 2019, Ives pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in connection with computers.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Oregon Cyber Task Force and prosecuted by Quinn P. Harrington, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Any public or private entity suspecting a cyber intrusion or attack should contact the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center at or by calling your nearest FBI office.