Monday, April 14, 2008

Miami man gets prison term in Hurricane Katrina relief scam

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

4:10 PM EDT, April 14, 2008


A Florida man was sentenced to nine months in prison for running a bogus Hurricane Katrina relief Web site and several other sites that authorities said were meant to gather sensitive information from would-be donors.

Jovany Desir, 22, of Miami, pleaded guilty in January to wire fraud. Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh said Desir also was sentenced last week to prison, followed by three months of house arrest.

Desir was accused of creating ``phishing'' Web sites over several months in 2005. Phishing sites look like legitimate Web sites, but are fraudulent and are meant to fool people into entering their personal financial information on the Internet.

Desir sold the phishing sites to potential scammers for $150, authorities said.

Authorities said the purported hurricane-relief effort was said to be linked to an American Red Cross chapter in western Pennsylvania, and another bogus site mimicked the Web site for Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank.

Desir also created bogus sites for eBay, Paypal and two Canadian financial institutions, Banque Nationale and Desjardins Credit Union.

Prosecutors said about 56 people downloaded the Katrina relief site, while the Banque Nationale site got about 8,500 hits. Prosecutors said they don't know if anyone's information was used illegally, but said given the numbers of hits and downloads, it is likely some people were fooled.

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