US court sentences Chennai-born to 81 months in prison


Washington: A US court has sentenced Jaisankar Marimuthu, a 36-year-old native of Chennai, to 81 months in prison on charges of identity thefts, hacking and perpetrating an international fraud scheme.

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The accused was hacking into online brokerage accounts in the US and used the accounts to manipulate stock prices, said Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general with the criminal division.

Marimuthu pleaded guilty Feb 5 to one count of conspiracy to commit these online securities and computer frauds, as also aggravated identity theft before a district magistrate at Omaha in Nebraska.

The accused, who was extradited to the US following his arrest in Hong Kong, was sentenced to 81 months imprisonment Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp, and ordered to pay $2.4 million in restitution, court officials said.

According to court documents, Marimuthu was part of a conspiracy that operated out of Thailand and India from February 2006 to December 2006, in which the prices of thinly-traded securities were fraudulently inflated by hacking into US brokerage accounts.

Then these accounts were used to make large, unauthorized purchases of securities in the name of unsuspecting customers. After the price of the securities had been artificially increased, the conspirators would sell their own holdings.

More than 90 customers and seven brokerage firms in the US were identified as victims. Financial losses of close to $2.5 million were sustained by the victims in this case.

Co-defendant Thirugnanam Ramanathan, 37, also pleaded guilty June 2, 2008, to one count of conspiracy to commit these wire, securities and computer frauds and one count of aggravated identity theft.

He, too, was arrested in Hong Kong, extradited May 25, 2007, to the US and sentenced to two years in prison. He has since been sent back to India.

Another co-defendant Chockalingham Ramanathan, 36, remains at large, officials said.