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Jan 21

New Charges Derail COVID Release for Hacker Who Aided ISIS

A hacker serving a 20-year sentence for stealing personal data on 1,300 U.S. military and government employees and giving it to an Islamic State hacker group in 2015 has been charged once again with fraud and identity theft. The new charges have derailed plans to deport him under compassionate release because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ardit Ferizi, a 25-year-old citizen of Kosovo, was slated to be sent home earlier this month after a federal judge signed an order commuting his sentence to time served. The release was granted in part due to Ferizi’s 2018 diagnosis of asthma, as well as a COVID outbreak at the facility where he was housed in 2020.

But while Ferizi was in quarantine awaiting deportation the Justice Department unsealed new charges against him, saying he’d conspired from prison with associates on the outside to access stolen data and launder the bitcoin proceeds of his previous crimes.

In the years leading up to his arrest, Ferizi was the administrator of a cybercrime forum called Pentagon Crew. He also served as the leader of an ethnic Albanian group of hackers from Kosovo known as Kosova Hacker’s Security (KHS), which focused on compromising government and private websites in Israel, Serbia, Greece, Ukraine and the United States.

The Pentagon Crew forum founded by Ferizi.

In December 2015, Ferizi was apprehended in Malaysia and extradited to the United States. In January 2016, Ferizi pleaded guilty to providing material support to a terrorist group and to unauthorized access. He admitted to hacking a U.S.-based e-commerce company, stealing personal and financial data on 1,300 government employees, and providing the data to an Islamic State hacking group.

Ferizi gave the purloined data to Junaid “Trick” Hussain, a 21-year-old hacker and recruiter for ISIS who published it in August 2015 as part of a directive that ISIS supporters kill the named U.S. military members and government employees. Later that month, Hussain was reportedly killed by a drone strike in Syria.

The government says Ferizi and his associates made money by hacking PayPal and other financial accounts, and through pornography sites he allegedly set up mainly to steal personal and financial data from visitors.

Junaid Hussain’s Twitter profile photo.

Between 2015 and 2019, Ferizi was imprisoned at a facility in Illinois that housed several other notable convicts. For example, prosecutors allege that Ferizi was an associate of Mahmud “Red” Abouhalima, who was serving a 240 year sentence at the prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Another inmate incarcerated at the same facility was Shawn Bridges, a former U.S. Secret Service agent serving almost eight years for stealing $820,000 worth of bitcoin from online drug dealers while investigating the hidden underground website Silk Road. Prosecutors say Ferizi and Bridges discussed ways to hide their bitcoin.

The information about Ferizi’s inmate friends came via a tip from another convict, who told the FBI that Ferizi was allegedly using his access to the prison’s email system to share email and bitcoin account passwords with family members back home.

The Justice Department said subpoenas served on Ferizi’s email accounts and interviews with his associates show Ferizi’s brother in Kosovo used the information to “liquidate the proceeds of Ferizi’s previous criminal hacking activities.”

[Side note: It may be little more than a coincidence, but my PayPal account was hacked in Dec. 2015 by criminals who social engineered PayPal employees over the phone into changing my password and bypassing multi-factor authentication. The hackers attempted to send my balance to an account tied to Hussain, but the transfer never went through.]

Ferizi is being tried in California, but has not yet had an initial appearance in court. He’s charged with one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of wire fraud. If convicted of wire fraud, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. If convicted of aggravated identity theft, he faces a mandatory penalty of 2 years in prison in addition to the punishment imposed for a wire fraud conviction.

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26 comments

  1. What delusional judge suggested that this miscreant be let out for “compassionate” reasons? Perhaps the judge should take his place in prison. Time to change the law and let judges who make these early release decisions be sued for liability if (sorry, when) the miscreant goes back to crime.

    • That’s exactly what I wanted to say. Where do these idiot judges come from?

      Also, Brian, wow, PayPal with 2FA social engineered over the phone! What’s the point of that 2FA then? PayPal is the worst. I swear. I had to call them once and their tech support is entirely in India. I couldn’t even understand what the guy was saying. Plus what’s the guarantee that after I tell such a rep my account details he won’t sell them on the dark web?

      • Wannabe tech guy

        Oh oh. Someone may call you a “racist”!

        • Don’t pretend racism doesn’t exist, that’s called dog whistling.

          Not useful, doesn’t reflect well on you regardless of topic.

          • Please stop pretending we live in the 1930s. Kind of strange only liberals hear these “racist dog whistles” you speak of.

    • Agree completely.
      Can judges be recalled?
      Was this one elected?

  2. Small money the wall street launderimg billions of usd.
    We see again big money not crime small money is crime.
    If we see on street lucury cars or posh people we know they are criminals only honest people are poor

    • @smallmoney

      Yes, perhaps it’s true “Behind Every Great Fortune There Is a Crime”

      So aiding & abetting ISIS doesn’t count as long as multimillion$ are not involved?

    • Sure, the small money isn’t important until its “your money” then that small money become real important. We are watching out for the small money because it’s mine, my mothers, my bothers.
      Maybe you should be thinking about how you treat people and not who has more money. That’s how I judge others. but to each their own,,

  3. This Cannot Be Serious!

    Is it too much to ask, once this guy is convicted of these new charges, that he be confined to solitary for, say, the next 10 years?

    Alternatively, can we call upon Congress to establish a crime that equates such activity with being an active enemy combatant for which execution is warranted?

  4. There are people arrested multiple times a day due to covid jail/prison releases. Here is the first Google hit:

    https://abcnews.go.com/US/man-arrested-times-day-cas-coronavirus-based-bail/story?id=70481605

    I have no trouble adjusting sentences for other reasons, just not for covid.

  5. Whats the point to arrest criminals if goverments police secret services are full of criminals
    So what is the point to arrest small ones ?

  6. It seems that most people are missing the question of why is someone convicted of a hacking crime then given access to computers while in jail?!?! Surely that is simply asking for problems right there!! If they wish to communicate with family then give them pen and paper which can more easily be reviewed for security.

    Giving this guy ANY access to a computer and email, and he is simply going to carry on ripping off the innocent, selling whatever information he can, leading to severe security concerns, all in the name of making himself more money! 🙁

  7. The Sunshine State

    Are you saying in this article that Shawn Bridges is a prison snitch ?

  8. “ diagnosis if asthma” – think this is a typo.

    Great read as usual!

  9. The stuff some of us watch in movies are actually being done by these people. Dead at 21 due to a drone strike. People are weird and stupid.

    I work with the military in previous jobs and this Army Major was telling me the story of one military guy who had access to the bags of cash to pay off Iraqis for various things. The guy stole a ton of the money.

    He only got caught when he couldn’t control his spending once he returned to the states and started buying things that should be out of the reach for someone with his pay.

  10. “Compassionate release because of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

    Really? Now if he had been executed upon being found guilty in court, Covid wouldn’t be an issue. With any luck, Trump will pardon him before midnight today. I mean, he is “guilty” and Donald only pardons guilty people no matter the crime. So much for the thinking that 2021 will be a better year than 2020 was, sigh.

    • Not sure if you are saying the same as the following:
      By definition, a “pardon” is only granted to those found guilty of a crime. Just like only found guilty people are put in prison, sentenced to death and executed.

      All past presidents only pardon people found guilty.

      Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton_pardon_controversy

      One can be found guilty and yet be innocent of the crime.

      • Facts matter again. Biden is President.

        No you do not have to be found guilty, charged, or even investigated to be pardoned.

        https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ford-pardons-nixon

        Most of the draft dodgers pardoned by Carter had not been charged; but they could have been had they returned. They could have pled conscientious objector status, and that may even have been true.

        Here is the trump list of pardons. Some of them are for people in prison, some for people under investigation who specifically say that they are innocent.

        https://news.yahoo.com/the-complete-list-of-donald-trumps-pardons-and-commutations-183713910.html

        What you may be grasping for with your tiny brain is that if you are pardoned then you lose your 5th Amendment rights.

        • Your reply was very good, with links to back up your statements, until you threw in the insult at the end.

          • When someone is fabricating in defense of a traitor, that’s not ‘polite’ either.

            “All past presidents only pardon people found guilty.” – Wrong.

            Donald Trump is no longer anything but prison bound.

            Stop worshiping. Stop defending. Let his incompetent lawyers do it.

    • I’m looking forward to Karma working full time to restore balance. It’s schadenfreude time.

  11. It’s so sad to see peoples money spent keeping these scum alive, fed and healthy. Turn them off and recycle the parts to needy children.

  12. Wheezing to death of asthma/COVID seems a fitting end to this piece of slime. I’m surprised he didn’t pay Trump for a pardon.

  13. This is interesting to read!

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