DOJ Arrests IT Workers in North Korea Identity Fraud Scheme

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) unlawful money-generating operations have been disrupted by unsealed charges, seizures, and other court-authorized measures by the Justice Department.

An Arizona woman, a Ukrainian man, and three foreign nationals who have not been named are all facing charges related to a plan to recruit foreign nationals who work in information technology (IT) and pose as U.S. citizens or permanent residents (utilizing identity fraud) in order to get remote jobs with American corporations.

North Korea has sent hundreds of talented IT professionals to other countries. These individuals have infiltrated the networks of domestic firms while pretending to be domestic workers. They have exploited stolen or borrowed identities of American citizens to generate cash for North Korea.

According to court records, the schemes sought to defraud more than 300 American corporations by using American payment platforms and online job site accounts, proxy computers situated in the US, and knowing and unknowing individuals and organizations in the US. Included in this statement is the biggest case ever brought by the Justice Department regarding this particular scam using IT professionals.

Today, two federal criminal cases were unsealed. One of these was filed by the DC U.S. Attorney’s Office in collaboration with the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. The prosecutions have led to the arrest of two defendants and the execution of search warrants and seizures in several jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C. The investigations were coordinated with four more U.S. Attorney’s Offices and five other FBI field offices. The lead investigators were the IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) and the FBI Phoenix and New York Field Offices.

North Korea, which is financially isolated from the United States and is subject to heavy sanctions, is using the fraud plan to its advantage by capitalizing on a “toxic brew” of elements, such as the United States high-tech worker shortage and the rise of remote telework.

According to the Justice Department, these actions are part of a larger effort to educate private sector organizations about the need to verify the identities of persons they hire, foster international cooperation, and punish those who facilitate fraud.