iTunes, Amazon Fraud Gang Members Jailed

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Apple and Amazon lose £1 million, but the crooks are caught and jailed

Three people have been sentenced to prison for their role in a large-scale international fraud against Apple iTunes and Amazon.

Another eight had already been given jail time for the crime, which saw the crooks illegally sell music online to a level “equivalent to that of a major recording artist”, according to the Metropolitan Police.

The gang, led by 24-year-old Craig Anderson of Dartford, Kent, uploaded music onto iTunes and Amazon, before using thousands of compromised US and UK credit cards to buy the tracks. Over 500,000 purchases were made, generating £500,000 in royalty payments and costing Apple and Amazon around £1 million. Other gang members came from Kent, Derby, Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Apple alert

Apple alerted authorities to the fraud in 2009 when unknown artists from Wolverhampton started getting royalties at a level normally achieved by Madonna. Arrests followed that year thanks to a joint operation between the Metropolitan Police Service’s Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) and the New York Police Department.

“The nature of online commerce presents opportunities for sophisticated and resourceful cyber criminals, operating across national boundaries and jurisdictions,” said DC Simon Mills of the PCeU.

“But, when law-enforcement agencies, prosecutors and victims pull together, international barriers can be overcome and suspects can be identified, prosecuted and punished.

“We hope the successful outcome of this and other PCeU investigations will serve as a deterrent to those contemplating these conspiracies, will put fear into the minds of those engaged in them and will serve to reduce the harm caused by cyber crime.”

The three defendants sentenced today included 29-year-old teacher James Batchelor, 24-year-old hairdresser Siobhan Clarke and unemployed 21-year-old Colton Johnson.

Anderson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in April last year, was sentenced to four years and eight months imprisonment. The 11 individuals convicted have been sentenced to a total of 13 years, four months imprisonment.

The conclusion of the case marks another success for the PCeU. The Met body arrested 14 people suspected of carrying out a phishing operation earlier this month, after one woman was robbed of her £1 million life savings.

Towards the end of last year, the PCeU apprehended another six people suspected of another phishing scam, which took £1 million away from students’ bank accounts.

Think you know all about scams like phishing? Test your knowledge with our security quiz.