22-year-old "organized crime" cybercrook convicted under racketeering law gets TWENTY years

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Uncategorized

Late in 2013, we wrote about what turned out to be something of a landmark criminal case in the USA.

Cybercriminal David Ray Camez, 22, from Arizona, USA, was already serving a seven-stretch for cyberfraud when he was brought to trial in 2013, this time under RICO, the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

The idea of RICO is to make criminal gangs collectively liable for the offences they commit as an organized group.

You can see the point, at least as it applies to the guys at the top, who may be masterminding and bankrolling criminal activity, yet keeping themselves out of the direct firing line of criminal charges by not actually carrying out any of the crimes themselves.

And you can see how legislation of this sort might discourage low-level criminals from joining organized gangs by making them liable for more serious charges (and thus more severe penalties) than if they acted alone.

Where does "organized" start?

The issue in this case seems to have been whether a web forum that puts cybercriminal buyers and sellers in touch - an eBay of the underground, if you like - would be enough to constitute an organized gang.

The website in question, carder DOT su, was infiltrated by the US Secret Service, and investigators bought bogus driving licences from Camez in 2009 and 2010, as well as intercepting a shipment of hooky credit and gift cards sent to Camez from Pakistan.

According to the US Department of Justice, carder DOT su had an estimated 5500 members in July 2011, essentially making Camez a small fish in a large pond.

The site was hosted in, and allegedly operated by residents of, countries from the former Soviet Union. (Indeed, the top level domain DOT su is a historic remnant of the old order.)

Unlike eBay, however, not just anyone could join the carder DOT su forum and start trading.

You couldn't give it a go and leave the community to vote you up or down to determine how trusted you might become; instead, there was a secondary forum where prospective new members were vetted.

In other words, there was an organized process by which new members were inducted into the group.

Thus, racketeering.

Camez, the organized criminal

Sadly for Camez, who would have been just 17 years old in 2009 when he picked the wrong buyer to do business with, that means he's more than just a fraudster.

He's an organized crook who carries the can, at least in part, for a vast underground network of thousands of other cybercriminals from all around the world.

With 5500 members, you can imagine that the total amount of money netted by these crooks might be enormous, and apparently it was, with at least the following losses claimed:

  • American Express: $3,299,210.90
  • Discover Financial Service: $2,202,429.00
  • MasterCard: $15,496,221.00
  • Visa Inc.: $29,895,305.45

Those amounts, specified to the last dollar or even cent, may look curiously precise, but they add up to just a touch over $50,000,000.

That's a LOT of money, and so when Camez was sentenced yesterday, he pulled a LOT of prison time.

He was sentenced to a whopping 20 years imprisonment, and ordered to pay $20,000,000 in restitution.

According to the DoJ, a total of 55 people have been similarly charged: 39 along with Camez, and 16 in other indictments.

Of those charged, 21 have already pleaded guilty and are therefore looking down the barrel of a twenty as well, unless their guilty pleas provide some scope for leniency in sentencing.

One imagines that they'll be ordered to pay millions of dollars each in restitution, too, though how much of that the US authorities will ever collect remains to be seen.

Have your say

Twenty years?

There's no doubt that Camez, who went online under the handle "Bad Man," was a bad man who actively caused economic harm to others.

Nevertheless, twenty years!

Was he really a racketeer, and was 20 years the right sentence?

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12 Responses to 22-year-old "organized crime" cybercrook convicted under racketeering law gets TWENTY years

  1. Mike B. · 73 days ago

    Rapists and pedos get less time than this. Even murders get off with less. Yes he deserves a stiff punishment but he was 17 and there was no physical harm, the only harm was to the credit card companies. People that rob with physical harm or home invasions don't even get this amount. I will take getting my credit card stolen any day over physical harm such as robbery or home invasion. This is excessive.

    • Sammie · 73 days ago

      Would recommend having a read about ID thefts. Physical attacks could head, but a bad instance of ID theft could put you on the watch list of every country around the world with your life turned upside down. The punishment was worth it and its a shame that harsher sentences are not being given to rapists and paedos.

    • Bill · 73 days ago

      Of course he deserves the sentence, however he will serve just a few years and be out before he's 30.

      • Andy · 73 days ago

        Except that's not the case. Unless he wins a post conviction relief motion, he's going to be locked away for 85% of those 20 years. In the federal system, there is no parole and inmates can't be released until 85% of the sentence is served. If he's lucky, he'll be free for his 40th birthday party. The more you learn about crime and punishment the less faith you'll have in the broken system.

        • Paul Ducklin · 73 days ago

          He's serving a seven at the moment. I suppose he must have 3 or 4 to go on that one, less 15% off.

    • Anonymous · 73 days ago

      20 years is not enough

      • Reader · 73 days ago

        Seriously? For perspective, the Wall Street cabal crashed the U.S. economy in 2008 and not one of those criminals did time.

  2. Andy · 73 days ago

    The U.S. approach to crime and punishment is a broken system. We punish people we're mad at and not the people we're afraid of. We will lock up low level hoods like Camez, and street level drug dealers, for decades. At the same time we let career criminals walk after 2/3 of a wrist slap sentence is served. Had Camez committed an armed robbery and assault he would have been walking free within 5 years.

    There is no justification for what Camez has done, but there is no legitimate justification for putting him in a federal prison for the next 20 years.

  3. The extent of damage done by organized cybercrime is horrific, and harsh penalties under RICO are a good way to discourage people from doing it.

    At the same time, I would like to see US criminal penalties rationalized. We have a penal "system" that is political, not punitive, and we have given lengthy prison time for far too many people for comparably petty crimes.

    • Anonymous · 70 days ago

      Why is the Mafia still around and flourishing if RICO is a good deterrent? Mafioso's and their relatives have been given Reality-TV shows for the love of God! Yet this not quite two-bit punk gets a longer prison sentence than the Don of the Gambino's John Gotti Jr?! Ridiculous by any rational measure.

  4. Rick · 73 days ago

    Don't do the crime and you won't do the time. At least the sentence will deter Mr. Camez from continuing his pursuit of ill-gotten gain for a considerable period. While the case deserves wide-spread publicity in the hopes others will be deterred from similar pursuits, it's unlikely to have that effect since many like-minded believe they're smarter than law enforcement and won't be discovered. Alas, much to the chagrin of Mr. Camez, that's not always the case.

  5. Joe · 73 days ago

    The hallmark of a police state is that any transgression (and I'm not saying this was an insignificant one) automatically draws the most severe penalty. C'mon! Not every crime is a RICO case or an instance of terrorism threatening the state, although you'd be hard-pressed to find many that aren't inflated as such nowadays. Also, the entire RICO approach to prosecutions is problematic because it is so easily abused. But Americans are dolts for their Law and Order mentality. War on Crime. War on Drugs. War on Terror. War on Anybody! Speaking of anybody, Anybody know of a Western nation that doesn't pray at the altar of St. Orwell?

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog