Female White-Collar Crime Divas-Mordern Day Thieves

Cyber-gangs In Your Bank Accounts?


     Hopefully, you read the scam alert from yesterday’s post, and have full knowledge of what the Phish scams are and what to be aware of. This post is to put some meat on the bones. Unfortunately, a CrimeDiva is a part of this real life example.

 Today’s CrimeDiva, Nichole Michelle Merzi, 26, of Oceanside, CA, was convicted after being tied to a gang that sought to defraud banks of $1 million. Ms. Merzi trial lasted six-weeks. She was found guilty of bank and wire fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, computer fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges, and then sentenced to five years in a federal prison.

According to the records, Ms. Merzi was involved in a phishing scheme that spanned from LA all the way to Egypt. Officials arrested her and several cyber-gangers after a multinational investigation known as Operation Phish Phry, a joint effort by law enforcement officials in the United States and Egypt that led to charges being filed against 100 people, over 47 defendants have been convicted in federal court in Los Angeles

Apparently, €œthis international phishing ring greatly impacted two banks [Bank of America and Wells Fargo], causing problems for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bank customers. The cyber-gang used traditional phishing tactics, spamming out emails that appeared to be official correspondence from banks or credit card companies. The emails directed recipients to surf to phishing sites that were used by the gang to harvest information. Once there, the customers would be prompted to enter their account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information, according to the FBI. Using the stolen data, the gang hacked into accounts at two banks, and then individuals in Egypt coordinated the transfer of the stolen funds to other accounts. The U.S. operation was overseen by Ms. Merzi’s boyfriend, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison. He directed other conspirators to recruit €œdrops,€ to set up, and use bank accounts where stolen funds could be held. A portion of the stolen money was transferred through wire services to the Egyptian co-conspirators. 

Hopefully, we have all learned to be cautious when opening emails and realize just because a company or bank we do business with information seem to appear on the header, or from that company/bank does not mean it is. A safe step is to contact your bank/company directly. Most of all, do not give any personal information over the internet, the company you do business with should already have it.

Do you enjoy reading crime stories, if so, why don’t you check out these: The Check, Password, and Trucker’s Nightmare, click on the book covers to read an excerpt and purchase.

webPaswaorCheck pictureTrucker Front cover


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