Raymond Odigie Uadiale, age 41, is great with computers. Good enough to be hired by Microsoft as a network engineer. And good enough, according to the feds, to run a virus scamming ring that froze computers via a fake warning from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, charged people a $200 "fine" to unlock their laptops, and warned users they might be sent to prison if they didn't pay up.
Instead, it's Uadiale who's going to jail. Federal prosecutors announced Monday he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of money laundering after admitting that while he was a Florida International University grad student, he was secretly running a computer "ransomware" scam that used a virus called "Reveton" to lock people's computers and demanded money to unlock them. Uadiale, who also went by the name "Mike Roland," will serve 18 months in prison after laundering nearly $100,000 to a co-conspirator in the United Kingdom identified only by the online handle "K!NG."
“By cashing out and then laundering victim payments, Raymond Uadiale played an essential role in an international criminal operation that victimized unsuspecting Americans by infecting their computers with malicious ransomware,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian Benczkowski announced yesterday. Uadiale pleaded guilty June 4.
In 2012, the FBI released a warning that a new, "drive-by" computer virus called Reveton was flooding the internet and helping computer hackers extort money. The bureau said the scam was simple: People browsing the internet would receive a pop-up message that was spoofed to look like it was from the FBI. The page would lock and claim the user had committed an internet crime such as illegally downloading music or movies — or even viewing child pornography.
"We are getting dozens of complaints every day,” the Internet Crime Complaint Center's Donna Gregory told the FBI that year. “Unlike other viruses, Reveton freezes your computer and stops it in its tracks. And the average user will not be able to easily remove the malware.”
In 2015, the Internet Crime Complaint Center labeled Miami the nation's "number two" hot spot for web crimes, which is perhaps not surprising given the city's reputation as a money-laundering mecca and general hangout for scumbags.
The feds say Uadiale was working for a major Reveton ring while attending grad school at FIU from October 2012 to March 27, 2013 — right when the FBI says it was receiving an upswell in Reveton complaints.
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Prosecutors indicted Uadiale in April. They allege he used the "Mike Rowland" alias to register prepaid debit-card accounts on behalf of a ransomware ring operating out of the United Kingdom. Uadiale would message his British partner, who was referenced in the indictment only by "K!NG," with the account details — and K!NG would then deposit proceeds paid online into the debit-card accounts.
From there, the feds say, Uadiale would simply withdraw the money at ATMs in South Florida and immediately send the cash to K!NG in Britain using a Costa Rican money-transfer service called Liberty Reserve. The U.S. government later shut Liberty Reserve down for facilitating more than $6 billion in money-laundering activity, and its creator was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors say debit accounts often froze or were shut down. It was Uadiale's job to continue registering new accounts to keep the scheme going. Uadiale sent $93,640 to K!NG in just five months.
For now, his British cohort remains free. In court documents, Uadiale claimed he didn't know K!NG's identity and never met him in person.