An Iranian national admitted he defrauded millions of people, including South Mississippians, by using hackers to steal credit card information and sell it on his members-only websites.
Milad Rezaei Kalantari, 31, and his organization caused losses of more than $1.2 billion while selling the credit card data of 2.5 million people, according to Homeland Security Investigations.
He pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge involving identity theft and fraudulent credit cards, and a trafficking charge that could hold him accountable for financial losses.
Kalantari had faced trial on 16 counts. He was indicted in U.S. District Court in Gulfport in January and accepted a plea bargain offered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The conspiracy began in February 2005 and continued until Jan. 20, the 12-page charging document said.
The stolen information included debit card and credit card numbers, the three-digit security numbers and names, addresses and telephone numbers of victims.
The stolen information involved customers of Hancock Bank, Keesler Federal Credit Union and Coastal Bank and Trust, among others, a court document said.
HSI in Gulfport began the investigation in June 2014 after agents identified Kalantari as the leader of a global financial fraud ring.
A Homeland Security Investigations agent in Gulfport testified he bought stolen data online before Kalantari’s arrest. The purchase provided stolen card information on 68 Mississippians.
Green card lottery
Kalantari had won the free green card lottery to become a permanent resident of the U.S., a court paper said.
The lottery is a federal program available for eligible immigrants. HSI agents said they learned Kalantari had won the lottery and planned to move to America.
HSI agents from Gulfport, Tampa and New York City arrested him Dec. 21 as he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Investigators are working with major credit card companies for a more accurate accounting of victims and losses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Kalantari’s two charges each carry a fine of up to $250,000. The trafficking fine could be twice the amount of the gain or loss caused by his crimes, a court document said.
Chief U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. will sentence Kalantari on Jan. 4.