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DOJ Indicts 3 Men Accused Of 'Largest Data Breach In History'

Three men, two from Vietnam and one from Canada, who allegedly participated in a scheme to harvest a billion email addresses have been charged in what the Department of Justice describes as the largest data breach in the history of the Internet.

An indictment has been unsealed for Vietnamese citizens Viet Quoc Nguyen, 28, who is a fugitive, and Giang Hoang Vu, 25, his accomplice, who is in custody. Nguyen and Vu are accused of hacking into eight U.S.-based email service providers to steal the addresses. Canadian David-Manuel Santos Da Silva, 33, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

NPR's Carrie Johnson says Vu then used the data to send spam marketing emails that garnered $2 million in revenue.

"Court papers charge [Da Silva] with conspiracy to commit money laundering for helping them launder the proceeds," Carrie says.

"These men — operating from Vietnam, the Netherlands, and Canada — are accused of carrying out the largest data breach of names and email addresses in the history of the Internet," U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell said in a statement. "The defendants allegedly made millions of dollars by stealing over a billion email addresses from email service providers."

Da Silva "is the co-owner of a company called 21 Celsius Inc. that allegedly struck up a marketing arrangement with Nguyen and Vu to generate revenue and launder the proceeds," according to the Justice Department.

The Justice Department statement says:

"Vu was arrested by Dutch law enforcement in Deventer, Netherlands, in 2012 and extradited to the United States in March 2014. On Feb. 5, 2015, Vu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 21, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the Northern District of Georgia. ...

"Da Silva was arrested based upon charges set forth in a criminal complaint at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport on Feb. 12, 2015, and is scheduled to be arraigned today in Atlanta before Magistrate Judge E. Clayton Scofield III."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.