By Christopher Bing
NEW YORK: An Israeli private detective detained in New York since 2019 on charges of involvement in a hacker-for-hire scheme pleaded guilty to wire fraud, conspiracy to commit hacking and aggravated identity theft on Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors say the detective, Aviram Azari, organized a series of hacking missions on behalf of unnamed third parties against American companies based in New York, using fake websites and phishing messages to steal email account passwords.
Five people familiar with the case say that Azari is being charged in relation to New Delhi-based BellTroX InfoTech Services, which Reuters last year reported was behind a hacking campaign that targeted lawyers, government officials, businessmen, investors and activists around the world.
Azari’s lawyer, Barry Zone, said his client had pleaded guilty and admitted wrongdoing in his role as a middleman in the hacking scheme, but added that his client was not cooperating with the U.S. government.
Zone said the charges against Azari related to work Azari had done for the German payments company, Wirecard.
Wirecard, founded in 1999, began by processing payments for gambling and pornography websites before becoming a fintech star and a member of Germany’s blue chip DAX index.
It ended by filing for insolvency in June 2020, owing creditors almost $4 billion, after disclosing a 1.9 billion hole in its accounts that EY said was the result of a sophisticated global fraud.