Three teenagers in the UK have been sentenced for up to five years in jail for creating and operating Gh0stMarket.net, one of the world's largest English-language internet crime forums. The Gh0stMarket website, which had about 8,000 members, was dubbed by the court as the "criminal equivalent of Facebook", or "Crimebook," according to The Guardian:
In court, Tyrone Smith, defending, said the site was a "Crimebook" where people could learn and socialize. To users, Gh0stMarket appeared as lines of computer code and broken English. On the site hackers and fraudsters traded anonymously in compromised databases containing thousands of personal details including account numbers, pins and passwords. The site contained manuals such as "14 ways of hacking credit cards" and "running cards on eBay" and information on staying anonymous. It sold hacking software and instructions on how to manufacture crystal meth and explosives.
19-year-old Nicholas Webber and 18-year-old Ryan Thomas were still at school when they were arrested after trying to pay a £1,000 ($1,600) hotel bill with a stolen card in October 2009. After finding details of 100,000 stolen credit cards on Webber's laptop, the police uncovered the existence of the website, as well as registered losses on 65,000 bank accounts. Police estimate that the site cost credit card users as much as £16.2 million ($26.37 million). Funds were processed at an offshore bank account in Costa Rica. The two jumped bail and fled to Majorca, Spain, but were arrested again after returning to the UK early last year.
The duo managed the site, while 21-year-old Gary Kelly helped design software that broke into thousands of computers and stole valuable personal details. Webber and Thomas admitted conspiracy to commit fraud and assisting offenders, while Kelly admitted to those charges, plus conspiracy to cause unauthorized modification to computers.
Webber, who was the privately educated son of a former politician, described himself on the site as "probably the most wanted cyber criminal right now." After his arrest, he threatened to blow up the boss of the police e-crimes unit in retaliation, and even traced officers' addresses. His school reports described him as "lacking social skills."
Other Gh0stMarket members received less severe verdicts by the court. 21-year-old Shakira Ricardo received an 18-month sentence after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud and acquiring criminal property. 22-year-old Ricardo and 22-year-old Samantha Worley used two Halifax bank accounts to launder money from the website. Worley was charged with acquiring criminal property and sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work.