A SWEDE and two Americans have been charged with conning people in more than 60 countries into buying $US100 million ($121.6 million) in bogus software by convincing them their computers were infected by malicious programs.A federal grand jury in Chicago returned indictments yesterday against 26-year-old James Reno, Bjorn Daniel Sundin and Shaileshkumar Jain.
Mr Sundin is a 31-year-old Swedish citizen believed to be living in Sweden. Mr Jain is a 40-year-old American authorities believe is in the Ukraine.
"These defendants allegedly preyed on innocent computer users, exploiting their fraudulently induced fears for personal gain," Robert D Grant, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Chicago office, said.
While authorities say they expect Mr Reno to turn himself in at some point, none of the three are in custody.
US Department of Justice spokesman Randall Samborn declined to discuss when Mr Reno will turn himself in or how authorities plan to pursue Mr Sundin and Mr Jain.
Mr Jain, Mr Sundin and others used a company they incorporated in Belize called Innovative Marketing Inc and a series of fictitious advertising agencies to place fake ads on legitimate websites from December 2006 through October 2008, the indictment says.
The ads contained hidden computer codes that redirected browsers on any computer used to view the ads to websites that would display error messages - known as scareware - telling users their computers were infected with malicious software. Computer users were prompted to use their credit cards to buy Innovative Marketing software with names such as DriveCleaner and ErrorSafe for anywhere from $US30 to $US70 ($36.50 to $85), authorities said.
The money, according to the indictment, was deposited in bank accounts around the world.
The indictment charges Mr Sundin and Mr Jain each with 24 counts of wire fraud, and Mr Reno with 12 counts of wire fraud. Each also was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and computer fraud.
Each wire fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $US250,000 ($304,000) fine, plus restitution and further potential fines based on the money lost by victims.
The indictment also seeks the forfeiture of about $US100 million ($121.6 million) and all money held in an account at Swedbank located in Kiev, Ukraine.