Maxi, whose max may be 30 years.
The FBI is Your Friend. Literally. A government document released today by a San Francisco watchdog group shows how deeply entrenched the agency is in the social media, seeking out criminal suspects on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook by posing as fellow Spacers, Tweeters and Friends. The Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained the Justice Department document that shows how local and federal law enforcement agencies mine the personal online data for evidence in cases of violent crime and financial fraud. Reports the AP:
Maxi, whose max may be 30 years.
"The Justice Department document, part of a presentation given in August by top cybercrime officials, describes the value of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and other services to government investigators. It does not describe in detail the boundaries for using them." Still, while revelations of such tactics aren't likely to shock anyone already aware of the intrusive ways of the Internet, the methods do pay off. Take the case of accused Seattle embezzler Maxi Sopo, caught hiding in Mexico after he brilliantly tipped off investigators to his whereabouts - via Facebook.
Sopo, a native of Cameroon, was aware the FBI was on his trail for defrauding credit unions in a car-loan scam. He drove to Mexico early last year and hid out. The standard FBI/U.S. Marshals manhunt began, with agents contacting acquaintances, interviewing witnesses, and checking credit card and other transactions, hoping to find a trail. Then they turned to their newest search weapon, the Net, and the social media. And there was Sopo, on the lam, typing up a storm on Facebook.
His online profile was private, but not his list of friends. By contacting them, assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville was able to learn where Sopo was laying low - he had an apartment, a job, and a new life in Cancun. An arrest warrant was issued, Mexican authorities moved in, and Sopo, 26, was jailed in September. Today he's awaiting extradition to Seattle.
An indictment filed last March accuses Sopo and others of defrauding local lenders, such as Seattle Metropolitan Credit Union. At SMCU's Tukwila branch, Sopo allegedly claimed he represented Rose Man Rentals LLC (he did peddle roses in nightclubs) and was selling a 2005 Mercedes to a loan applicant. He had told the buyer to overstate her income, prosecutors say, and helped provide false documents showing she made $90,000 a year; she actually worked at Popeye's Chicken & Biscuits and made $8 an hour. Sopo walked out with a $23,000 check for a car the FBI says was as fictional as Rose Man Rentals.
The feds say the false sale was part of a fraud ring headed by a Mill Creek "pocket bike" salesman Edward Assatorians who ran another front business, London Auto. The ring hit up local lender banks for $200,000 from March 2008 through February 2009, according to court documents. Assatorians has already been convicted and given five years.
Before authorities crashed his party, Sopo was working at a Cancun hotel and was, he said on Facebook, "loving it" and "living in paradise." As he exclaimed in a June posting: "LIFE IS VERY SIMPLE REALLY!!!! BUT SOME OF US HUMANS MAKE A MESS OF IT ... REMEMBER AM JUST HERE TO HAVE FUN PARTEEEEEEE." Sopo, who faces up to 30 years in prison, called Cancun "the one safe place where i can actually think." Just not very clearly.