Identity theft at center of new Mueller indictment

Identity theft at center of new Mueller indictment
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Russian nationals stole the identities of six people in the United States to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, the Justice Department alleged Friday.

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony Kellyanne Conway: 'I'd like to know' if Mueller read his own report MORE has brought charges of aggravated identity theft against four Russian nationals and the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian cyber influence group. They are among the 13 nationals and three groups indicted for conspiracy to alter the U.S. election.

The Russian nationals used the stolen Social Security numbers, home addresses and birth dates of six U.S persons to open bank and PayPal accounts and obtain fake government documents between June 2016 and May 2017, the indictment alleges.

The Russians allegedly opened four accounts at one undisclosed U.S. bank with the stolen identities of four U.S. persons. They also purchased from online sellers more than a dozen bank account numbers spanning five other U.S. banks. The stolen account information was allegedly used to evade PayPal security measures.

PayPal said in a statement that the company "is intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use of our services. We work closely with law enforcement, and did so in this matter, to identify, investigate and stop improper or potentially illegal activity.”

Both the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation  declined to comment on the indictment, whether they had cooperated with Mueller and whether they were investigating the incidents independently.

The Russian nationals allegedly used the stolen and fraudulent account information to finance their efforts to boost President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump pushes back on recent polling data, says internal numbers are 'strongest we've had so far' Illinois state lawmaker apologizes for photos depicting mock assassination of Trump Scaramucci assembling team of former Cabinet members to speak out against Trump MORE’s campaign and exploit American political tensions.

They’re alleged to have used the accounts to pay for the promotion of politically inflammatory social media posts, IRA expenses, political rallies and political props including banners, buttons and flags.

The Russians were also allegedly paid $25 to $50 per post from U.S. persons who wanted to promote content on IRA-controlled Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The special counsel also announced on Friday that Richard Pinedo of California pleaded guilty to wire fraud for selling bank account numbers to customers that included foreign nationals. The plea does not make a specific reference to selling the account numbers to Russian nationals.

Updated at 5:26 p.m.