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Las Vegas HSI special agent, federal prosecutor receive awards for work on cybercrime case

LAS VEGAS – A Las Vegas-based special agent with U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has been named the Cyber Investigations Contributor of the Year for his work on a probe that uncovered a worldwide online marketplace that sold stolen personal and financial information.

Michael P. Adams, the lead case agent in Operation Open Market, received the award Tuesday from the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. The award acknowledges Special Agent Adams’ cyber investigative skills, which significantly aided in the apprehension, arrest and prosecution of the suspects involved in the far-reaching scheme.

In addition, the organization also recognized Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Frayn with the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s Office, who served as the primary prosecutor on the case. Frayn received the William D. Neumann Prosecutor of the Year Award for her efforts. The award acknowledges prosecutors who have shown exceptional diligence, cooperation and tenacity, and who have made significant contributions to financial fraud prevention.

“These awards are richly deserved and reflect the extraordinary amount of work both the agent and prosecutor invested in this complex and far-reaching case,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Michael Harris. “There’s no question their collaborative efforts are in large measure responsible for the successful outcome of this investigation. For prosecutors and investigators, seeing career criminals like the defendants in this case brought to justice is its own reward, but having those efforts recognized in such a public way makes the outcome even more gratifying.”

As part of Operation Open Market, Special Agent Adams assumed the identity of a member of the Carder.su organization when it was in its infancy. The investigation determined that Carder.su’s members, or “carders,” were involved in the large-scale trafficking of compromised credit card account data, counterfeit identification and credit cards, as well as money laundering, narcotics trafficking and various types of computer crime. The organization operated an Internet web portal called a forum, where members could purchase the illicitly obtained data and share knowledge of various fraud schemes.

A second forum was also created to vet incoming new members. The forums were generally hosted within the former Soviet Union and the upper echelon of the organization resides within the former Soviet Union. Investigators estimate that in July 2011, there were more than 5,500 members in the organization.

Operation Open Market resulted in the filing of federal criminal charges against 56 individuals. The defendants are charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization, trafficking in compromised credit card account data and counterfeit identifications, money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and computer crimes. To date, 25 individuals have been convicted, and the rest are either fugitives or are pending trial in Las Vegas. 

The International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators is a non-profit organization with 40 chapters worldwide and more than 4,000 members whose mission is to identify and prevent financial crimes utilizing new technologies and investigative techniques.