Men plead guilty to aggravated ID theft after pilfering police database

Men plead guilty to aggravated ID theft after pilfering police database

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Two men have pleaded guilty to charges of computer intrusion and aggravated identity theft tied to their theft of records from a law enforcement database for use in doxxing and extorting multiple individuals.

Sagar Steven Singh, 20, and Nicholas Ceraolo, 26, admitted to being members of ViLE, a group that specializes in obtaining personal information of individuals and using it to extort or harass them. Members use various methods to collect social security numbers, cell phone numbers, and other personal data and post it, or threaten to post it, to a website administered by the group. Victims had to pay to have their information removed or kept off the website. Singh pled guilty on Monday, June 17, and Ceraolo pled guilty on May 30.

Impersonating a police officer

The men gained access to the law enforcement portal by stealing the password of an officer’s account and using it to log in. The portal, maintained by an unnamed US federal law enforcement agency, was restricted to members of various law enforcement agencies to share intelligence from government databases with state and local officials. The site provided access to detailed nonpublic records involving narcotics and currency seizures and to law enforcement intelligence reports.

Investigators tied Singh to the unlawful access after he logged in with the same IP address he had recently used to connect to a social media site account registered to him, prosecutors said in charging papers filed in March 2023. Prosecutors said Singh also threatened to harm one victim’s family unless the victim, referred to as Victim-1 in court papers, turned over credentials for an Instagram account.

“In order to drive home the threat, Singh appended Victim-1’s social security number, driver’s license number, home address, and other personal details,” prosecutors wrote. “Singh told Victim-1 that he had ‘access to [] databases, which are federal, through [the] portal, I can request information on anyone in the US doesn’t matter who, nobody is safe.’” The defendant ultimately directed Victim-1 to sell Victim-1’s accounts and give the proceeds to Singh.

The criminal complaint went on to allege that Ceraolo used a compromised email account belonging to a Bangladeshi police official to email account to pose as a Bangladeshi police official to contact US-based social media companies and ask them for personal information belonging to certain users under the false pretense that the users were committing crimes or were in life-threatening danger. In one case, one of the social media companies complied. The pair then used the data belonging to victims to extort them in exchange for not publishing it.

On a different occasion, the pair used the compromised email account to request user information from a different social media company after claiming that the user had sent bomb threats, distributed child abuse images, and threatened officials of a foreign government. The social media company ultimately refused and later posted on X (formerly Twitter) that it had identified the fraudulent request.

Both defendants face a minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum of seven years. The date of sentencing isn’t immediately known.

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