Eric Donys Simeu extradited from France; Phished GDS companies’ customers for login creds (Updated)
ATLANTA – Eric Donys Simeu, a/k/a Martell Collins, a citizen of Cameroon, has been arraigned on federal charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, computer fraud and access device fraud. Simeu was indicted by a federal grand jury in Atlanta on September 23, 2014.
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges, and other information presented in court: Eric Simeu is allegedly responsible for a series of “phishing campaigns” which targeted customers of Global Distribution System (“GDS”) companies from approximately July 2011 to September 2014.
GDS companies provide travel booking services to travel agencies and travel-related websites. Airline tickets that are issued from sources other than air carriers themselves are generally processed through a GDS company. Customers of GDS companies, such as representatives from a travel agency or travel-related website, are issued unique login credentials that are utilized to authenticate their identity and facilitate the issuance of airline tickets on GDS servers.
In this instance, Simeu’s alleged phishing campaigns targeted customers of two GDS Companies – one with its principal U.S. operations in Atlanta, Georgia, and another headquartered in Southlake, Texas. Simeu allegedly caused phishing emails to be delivered to customers of these GDS companies for the purpose of obtaining and stealing their unique log-in credentials. Simeu and others allegedly used the stolen log-in credentials to access the servers of the two GDS companies and cause the issuance of fraudulent airline tickets. Simeu and others then allegedly sold these airline tickets to customers, mostly in West Africa, for fractions of the actual cost, or used them for personal travel. The value of the fraudulently issued airline tickets exceeded $2 million.
On September 3, 2014, Simeu was arrested by French law enforcement pursuant to a federal criminal complaint issued out of the Northern District of Georgia. At the time of his arrest, Simeu was traveling from Casablanca, Morocco, to Paris, France, on an alleged fraudulently issued airline ticket in the name of his alias, Martell Collins, utilizing a fraudulent United Kingdom passport under the same name.
Eric Donys Simeu, a/k/a Martell Collins, 32, a citizen of Cameroon, was arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Russell G. Vineyard. A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Georgia returned an indictment against Simeu on September 23, 2014. Simeu has been in French custody since his arrest in September 2014, pending completion of extradition proceedings.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and State Department Diplomatic Security Service.
Assistant United States Attorney Steven D Grimberg and Trial Attorney Peter Roman with the U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided valuable assistance.
SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Georgia
Update: Post-publication, Sabre confirmed to DataBreaches.net that they were one of the two victim companies referred to in the DOJ release. They provided the following statement:
Sabre cooperates with law enforcement whenever they request our assistance, and we were glad to learn that our efforts in this case contributed to the apprehension of a suspect. This was a relatively unsophisticated scheme where the perpetrator duped travel agents, but there was no network hack or anything of the sort – and customer data was never involved or at risk.