Meet the Pakistani counterfeiter who allegedly aided Russian trolls against the US
According to reports, Raza has been charged with six counts, which include making false documents and aggravated identity theft.
A cascade of US sanctions were imposed on the 15th of April on Russian cybersecurity companies. Many of the officials alleged that they were operating on behalf of the Kremlin’s intelligence services. However, one company stood out from the rest: the Fresh Air Farm House in Karachi.
Details of The Fresh Air Farm House’s owner
The Fresh Air Farm House is run by 34-year-old Mohsin Raza. He is one of the two founders of an online fake ID business, Second Eye Solutions, that allegedly helped Russian operatives secure a toehold in the United States.
Federal prosecutors in New Jersey released a US Treasury statement and an indictment on the matter and said:
Raza operated a digital fake ID mill, churning out images of doctored drivers’ licenses, bogus passports, and forged utility bills to help rogue clients pass verification checks at US payment companies and tech firms.
According to reports, Raza has been charged with six counts, which include making false documents and aggravated identity theft. While talking to a media outlet, Raza acknowledged being a digital counterfeit and said:
I used simple Photoshop to alter ID cards, bills, and other documents to order. I have also dabbled in graphic design, e-commerce, and cryptocurrency. I didn’t do anything wrong; I was merely helping people access accounts that they’d been frozen out of.
The New Jersey indictment alleges that an employee of the Internet Research Agency was amongst Raza’s customers. According to the media, this customer was an infamous Russian troll who used leaked documents and former insiders to interfere in US elections. The indictment stated that this IRA employee used Raza’s services in 2017 to procure forged drivers’ licenses to support the identity of fake accounts on Facebook.
Commenting on the matter, Raza said:
I do not track who uses my service. Inspiration for my business came several years ago when a PayPal account that I had opened under an alias was locked, trapping hundreds of dollars I’d received for optimizing online search results. Unwilling to forgo my hard-earned real money, I photoshopped an identity document under my alias’ name. Once PayPal unfroze my account, I realized I had stumbled on a good idea, and the business took off from there.
The Business Shuts Down
Raza pulled his business site (Second Eye Solutions) down on the morning of the 15th of April. Before the business ended, the site boasted satisfactory reviews of 6000+ clients. Scores of customers had flooded the website’s review section to thank Second Eye Solutions for providing them with bogus identity documents to verify accounts — mostly PayPal.
Talking about his business earnings, Raza said:
Money earned from the fake ID business was poured into the construction of the Fresh Air Farm House.
According to reports, the farmhouse (featuring three bedrooms, a playing field, a water slide, and a BBQ area) is now on a US list of sanctioned entities, alongside Russian oligarchs and defense contractors.
An Example for Others
Tom Holt, who directs the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University, said:
Raza’s business is an example of how transnational cybercrime can serve as a springboard for state-sponsored disinformation. The alleged use by Russian operatives of a Pakistani fake ID merchant to circumvent American social media controls highlights why this globalized cybercrime economy that touches so many areas can be a perfect place to hide – even for nation-states.
Holt concluded his statement by saying:
The sanctioning of the Farm House appears to be a signal to the cyber-criminal milieu about steering clear of Russian actors. To the extent that you can’t deter through direct action, you can get some of these facilitators on notice.
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