They froze computers, then demanded ransom. A former FIU student is going to prison

A former FIU graduate student received an 18-month federal prison sentence this week for helping computer extortionists launder more than $93,000.

From October 2012 to Marc 27, 2013, while at FIU, Raymond Uadiale’s version of unofficial work-study involved moving extorted money for those who wielded a type of ransomware called “Reveton.” Uadiale, now 41, went to work for Microsoft as a network engineer after the scheme ended.

That job ended in March, the same month Uadiale was indicted on money laundering charges.

As explained in Uadiale’s admission of facts, “When Reveton infected a victim’s computer, it would display a splash screen that included the logo of a law enforcement organization and a message falsely informing the victim that the law enforcement organization had found illegal material on the infected computer. The Reveton ransomware splash screen would direct the victim to pay a “fine” in order to regain access to the computer and its data.”

Scam Smashing Tip No. 1: No law enforcement agency legally does business by demanding cash on the spot. And if you have illegal material on your computer worth law enforcement’s time, your punishment will come from a court and likely will be stiffer than a fine.)

To pay the “fine,” the person would be told to buy a GreenDot MoneyPak, which works something like a Starbucks card and is available at many stores. Then, they would put the MoneyPak account number into a form on the ransomeware splash screen. This sent the account number to the person controlling the ransomware from the United Kingdom, called in Uadiale’s admission “Co-conspirator 1.”

Uadiale bought prepaid debit cards and sent those account numbers across the Atlantic to Co-conspirator 1. GreenDot’s online transfer system allowed Co-conspirator 1 to move the extortion money from the MoneyPaks to the debit cards. Or, Co-conspirator 1 would send the MoneyPak account numbers to Uadiale and he would do the transferring of funds.

With the money on the debit cards held by Uadiale, he then hit ATMs or other places around South Florida he could use for withdrawing money off the cards.

“Using an account with the digital currency platform Liberty Reserve, the defendant would transfer the approximately 70 percent of the funds loaded onto the debit cards back to Co-conspirator 1,” Uadiale’s admission of facts states. “The defendant and Co-conspirator 1 agreed that the defendant would send Co-conspirator back approximately 70 percent of the funds loaded onto the defendant’s debit cards, while the defendant would keep the remaining amount for the defendant’s payment and to cover transaction fees.”

At those black market transaction rates, Uadiale made just over $40,000 in those months.