Man ar­rested for al­leged hack of me­dia sites

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - TOM BLACK­WELL

An­drew Rakhshan cer­tainly made an im­pres­sion with his credit-card fraud spree, at one point lead­ing po­lice — including an RCMP he­li­copter — on a high-speed boat chase off the Bri­tish Columbia coast.

Rakhshan was con­victed five years ago of buy­ing sev­eral high-end au­to­mo­biles and a $140,000 yacht with bo­gus cards — then mas­querad­ing as a po­lice of­fi­cer to gather in­for­ma­tion on the case against him.

The 32-year-old Amer­i­can was de­ported after serv­ing 18 months in a Cana­dian prison. But he al­legedly never for­got the bad press he earned here.

The FBI in Seat­tle ar­rested Rakhshan on Fri­day in a bizarre com­puter-hack­ing case, ac­cus­ing him of ex­tor­tion and other of­fences in­volv­ing a U.S. le­gal-doc­u­ments web­site, the CBC, Postmedia’s Canada.com and other news out­lets that had posted ma­te­rial about his crimes.

In a bid to get the com­pa­nies to re­move ar­ti­cles and case re­ports about him from the in­ter­net, he launched “de­nial of service” at­tacks on their sites, of­fered cash and threat­ened em­ploy­ees of the news or­ga­ni­za­tions and their fam­i­lies, U.S. au­thor­i­ties al­lege.

“I can­not af­ford to be haunted and fol­lowed by this or­deal wher­ever I go in the world,” Rakhshan wrote in an email to the Cana­dian branch of Metro News, ac­cord­ing to U.S. court doc­u­ments. “If you do not com­ply with my de­mand, Metronews.ca will be hit with a mas­sive cy­ber at­tack … If cy­ber at­tacks (DDOS) does not change your mind, then I will send death/ bomb threats to Metro of­fices across Canada and to your em­ploy­ees.”

The U.S. at­tor­ney in Dal­las has so far charged Rakhshan just with car­ry­ing out a de­nial-of-service at­tack on Lea­gle.com, an ag­gre­ga­tor of case re­ports based in Texas.

But ev­i­dence points to other of­fences, including ex­tor­tion, con­spir­acy and is­su­ing threats, says the charg­ing “com­plaint” filed in court.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, it says.

Kyana Givens, the pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Rakhshan, de­clined to com­ment.

The idea of be­ing able to cleanse the in­ter­net of un­flat­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion — some­times called the right to be for­got­ten — has ac­tu­ally been widely de­bated, with some ju­ris­dic­tions re­quir­ing Google to consider ap­pli­ca­tions for re­mov­ing links.

But U.S. au­thor­i­ties al­lege that Rakhshan took the no­tion much fur­ther, us­ing threats, at­tacks and money to try to elim­i­nate any on­line trace of his past crimes.

The man also known as Kam­yar Ja­han­rakhshan im­mi­grated with his family from Iran to the U.S. in 1991 and be­came an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen. But a few years later they moved to Canada, with a 2012 Cana­dian court rul­ing say­ing his mother, a travel agent, lived in Van­cou­ver and his father in Toronto.

Rakhshan was ini­tially ar­rested in 2009 after the boat chase, ac­cord­ing to the Van­cou­ver Prov­ince. A CBC re­port sug­gested the pur­suit also in­volved a bailiff hired by an ag­grieved car deal­er­ship. He even­tu­ally was con­victed of 40 fraud-re­lated charges over a scheme that saw him cre­ate coun­ter­feit credit cards linked to banks in Aus­tralia, Egypt, Brazil, France, the U.K., and other coun­tries.

Rakhshan used them to buy seven lux­ury cars — including BMWs, Mercedes Ben­zes, a Lexus and Cadil­lac — and a Sun­dancer boat, charg­ing close to $500,000.

He was also found guilty of ob­struct­ing jus­tice and im­per­son­at­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer, after con­tact­ing some of the banks and pos­ing as a Cana­dian de­tec­tive to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion re­lated to his case.

U.S. pros­e­cu­tors charge that he started tar­get­ing news sites in Canada and Aus­tralia — including the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald — shortly after his de­por­ta­tion in 2014.

He would some­times send them cash pay­ments of up to $500, then threaten or carry out cy­ber at­tacks de­signed to stop sites from prop­erly func­tion­ing, it’s al­leged.

“I have been de­ported from Canada, and am try­ing to build a new life half a world away, but this nasty ar­ti­cle of yours is taunt­ing me ev­ery day,” he wrote to the CBC in 2015.

The court rul­ing on Lea­gle.com he tried to have re­moved con­cerned a civil suit filed by Rakhshan. He had ap­plied to re­cover five cars seized from him in 2003 by a mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Wash­ing­ton State, those ve­hi­cles also al­legedly ob­tained by fraud.

The court re­fused his re­quest, not­ing “a thief has no right to pos­sess stolen prop­erty.”

THIS NASTY AR­TI­CLE OF YOURS IS TAUNT­ING ME EV­ERY DAY.

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