Florida man gets prison time in computer hacking scheme

Dec. 22—A Florida man who admitted his role in an India-based computer hacking scheme that stole $150,000 from an elderly Kalispell woman was sentenced Tuesday to two years and nine months in prison and ordered to pay $1,236,470 in restitution to seven victims, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Eddly Joseph, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. The court also imposed two years of supervised release following Joseph's prison sentence.

"Far too often, these internationally-based fraud schemes result in no accountability for those who prey on Montanans. But not this time. Due to the diligent work of the FBI, Joseph was caught and is now going to federal prison for running a predatory scheme by tricking and stealing from elderly victims across the country, including a Kalispell woman. As this case showed, we will turn over every rock to pursue these fraudsters, but the best thing Montanans can do to protect themselves is to not send money to people who randomly call soliciting money due to some kind of fake emergency, such as an alleged virus existing on your computer," U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.

The government alleged in court documents that in February, Glacier Bank notified the FBI that Jane Doe, a Montana woman in her 70s, was the victim of a scam. The international, India-based scam included fraudsters tricking Jane Doe into giving them $150,000 for "safe-keeping."

The fraudsters made it appear as if victims had a virus on their computers and that their bank accounts were accessible to hackers. To "safekeep" the victims' money, Joseph and others directed victims to withdraw cash and give it to them so the hackers could not access and steal the victims' money.

After learning of the scam, the FBI set up a ruse, claiming Jane Doe had an additional $50,000 for the fraudsters. When Joseph and others arrived to collect the money, the FBI arrested them. As a result of Joseph's and others' conduct, victims across the United States were repeatedly scammed, with a total loss of $1,236,470.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan G. Weldon prosecuted the case. The FBI and Flathead County Sheriff's Office conducted the investigation.