The fugitive Massachusetts businessman charged in the first criminal case to arise from an alleged DDoS-for-hire scheme has appeared on an FBI most wanted list, while the five men accused of carrying out his will are headed for federal court.
Jay Echouafni, 37, is a fugitive from a five-count federal indictment in Los Angeles charging him with aiding and abetting computer intrusion and with conspiracy. As CEO of the online satellite TV retailer Orbit Communication Corp, Echouafni allegedly paid a business associate to recruit members of the computer underground to cripple three online stores, resulting in long periods of downtime and an estimated $2m in losses to the businesses and their service providers.
Echouafni was arrested in Massachusetts last March and released on $750,000 bail secured by his house. According to the government, he disappeared over the summer, while his case was in a preliminary stage, shortly after his attorney won a motion to permit Echouafni's wife and children to "travel freely within and outside of the United States of America," and to have their passports returned. The FBI said in August that they suspect Echouafni has fled to his home country of Morocco.
This week the Washington Post spotted the accused DDoS mastermind on the FBI's Crime Alert website - an extension of the bureau's famous Ten Most Wanted list - where he's listed as Saad Echouafni.
"The FBI had a wanted poster for him shortly after the indictment was returned, but I think the addition to the most wanted came recently," says Arif Alikhan, Echouafni's prosecutor. "It's not the top ten, those are usually reserved for violent felons or terrorists."
Echouafni's alleged co-conspirators are scheduled to appear in a federal court in southern California later this month.
Paul Ashley, 30, the former operator of the CIT/Foonet hosting company, is named as Echouafni's go-between in arranging two of the attacks. Joshua Schichtel, Jonathan Hall, Lee Walker, and Richard Roby, known online as "Emp," "Rain," "sorCe," and "Krashed" respectively, are accused of actually carrying out the attacks.
Echouafni's electronic wanted poster puts additional thrust behind an investigation that was already one of a handful of cases cited last August by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in announcing what the Justice Department called "Operation Web Snare" - a tallying of over 150 recent and ongoing federal criminal cases relating to computers or identity theft. Ashcroft said the case illustrates "the increased use of the Internet to damage rival businesses and communicate threats for commercial advantage."
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