Operation Phish Phry defendants found guilty

Sentencing for 5 members of online bank-theft gang scheduled for October

Five members of the online bank-theft gang caught by an international investigation called Operation Phish Phry face more than 30 years in prison in some case after being found guilty in federal court in Los Angeles.

The five were found guilty of various combinations of bank fraud, computer fraud, conspiracy and aggravated identity theft and are scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 31.

BACKGROUND: Operation Phish Phry hooks 100 in US and Egypt

The group was made up of members in the U.S. and Egypt, and used phishing to lure victims to phony bank websites and reveal account numbers, passwords and other personal identification information.

They used that information to transfer assets out of victims' accounts in amounts ranging from a few hundred to $2,000 and into accounts controlled by members of the gang. Low-level participants called runners opened the accounts that received the stolen funds, then transferred it to accomplices in Egypt, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Central District of California.

In all, 100 people were charged in Operation Phish Phry when officials in the U.S. and Egypt swept up participants in October 2009.

According to the assistant U.S. attorney's office, those found guilty this week were:

* Nichole Michelle Merzi, 25, of Oceanside, who was found guilty of conspiracy, computer fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft;

* Tramond S. Davis, 21, of Las Vegas, Nev., who was found guilty of conspiracy;

* Shontovia D. Debose, 22, of Las Vegas, Nev., who was found guilty of conspiracy;

* Anthony Donnel Fuller, 22, of Corona, who was found guilty of conspiracy and two counts of bank fraud; and

* Me Arlene Settle, 22, of Garden Grover, who was found guilty of conspiracy and two counts of bank fraud.

The conspiracy and bank fraud charges carry maximum sentences of 30 years in federal prison. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a minimum sentence of two years that must be added to any other sentence imposed on a defendant.

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