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Man sentenced to 13 years in Operation 'Phish Phry'

Kenneth Joseph Lucas II ran a network of money mules to wire stolen funds to Egypt

A 27-year-old man has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for managing a phishing operation in conjunction with Egyptian hackers that looted consumer bank accounts.

Kenneth Joseph Lucas II, of Los Angeles, was one of a total of 100 people arrested by Egyptian and U.S. authorities as part of Operation Phish Phry in 2009, which the Department of Justice (DOJ) said resulted in the highest number of people being charged in a single cybercrime case. The two-year investigation involved the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Electronic Crimes Task Force in Los Angeles and Egyptian law enforcement authorities.

Lucas was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Los Angeles. He had pleaded guilty to 49 counts of bank and wire fraud, computer fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering conspiracy charges.

On Monday, he received an additional five-year sentence for growing 100 marijuana plants at his residence. Three of those years will run concurrent with his other sentence, for a total of 13 years.

The DOJ characterized Lucas as the lead defendant in the case in which 47 other people have been convicted in federal court in Los Angeles. The scam involved sending e-mails to customers of Bank of America and Wells Fargo that appeared to be official correspondence.

The victims were directed by those e-mails to fake bank websites that asked for account numbers, passwords and other sensitive information. Hackers in Egypt then transferred money -- in batches ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as US$2,000 -- to accounts they controlled. In the U.S., Lucas recruited people to set up accounts to receive the stolen funds and then wire money to Egypt.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank estimated that the total amount of intended loss was in excess of US$1 million, according to the DOJ.

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