U.S. indicts 3 in brokerage-hacking case

March 13, 2007 at 5:57 PM
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OMAHA, March 13 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors indicted three Indian nationals for allegedly using stolen passwords to hijack online brokerage accounts of scores of U.S. investors.

The scheme resulted in more than $2 million in losses, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said.

One investor had $180,000 cash and equity in his online brokerage account before a five-day fishing trip only to find a negative $200,000 balance when he returned, the SEC said.

Authorities are seeking to extradite Jaisankar Marimuthu and Thirugnanam Ramanathan to Omaha, Neb., where a federal grand jury indicted them on charges of conspiracy, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft. A third man, Chockalingam Ramanathan, is at large.

The men allegedly manipulated the stock of more than a dozen companies, from thinly traded penny shares to shares of Google Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc., the SEC said.

They allegedly used stolen user names and passwords to access investor accounts at such prominent brokers as TD Ameritrade, E*Trade Financial and Charles Schwab.

The brokerage houses eventually reimbursed more than 60 investors who experienced losses, SEC Office of Internet Enforcement Chief John Reed Stark said.

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