Tuesday, August 23, 2011

FBI Arrested Coupon Guy

Law Enforcement & Retailer Team Up Against Coupon Counterfeiter

MAY 11--A college student--and 4chan enthusiast--was named today in a felony complaint charging him with the illegal online distribution of counterfeit coupons that were designed to look like legitimate ones made available through a marketing firm owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
Lucas Henderson, a 22-year-old Rochester Institute of Technology student, is facing a pair of federal felony charges--wire fraud and trafficking in counterfeit goods--for allegedly posting counterfeit coupons on zoklet.net.
Henderson, pictured at right, is also accused of directing users of that message board to 4chan, where they could download a copy of "How to Make Coupons,” a 45-page tutorial on designing coupons that would “scan at most any store in the U.S.,” thus tricking retailers.
The manual opens with a page listing "The 6 Commandments of Coupon Making,” including the admonition that the tutorial not be uploaded “to any permanent hosting.” Instead, the document should be shared on “anonymous image boards” (like 4chan) where “posts expire after a period of time.” Placing the tutorial at a permanent online location “makes it much easier for companies and moral assholes to come across them and warn stores about them.”
In a phone interview, Henderson said he would “rather not say anything at this time.” Though he appeared this afternoon in federal court in Rochester, Henderson seemed shocked to learn from a reporter that details of the FBI probe were now public, and he voiced concern about his future ability to secure employment.

According to a U.S. District Court complaint sworn by FBI Agent Andre Cicero, the bureau has been probing the distribution over the Internet of counterfeit coupons designed to look like ones offered on smartsource.com, which is produced by News America Marketing, a subsidiary of Murdoch’s media conglomerate.
FBI agents identified Henderson by tracking an IP address captured on the zoklet.net servers (the address was provided to investigators by the message board’s operator). In mid-March, when an agent sought a search warrant for Henderson’s Rochester apartment, the investigator indicated that federal probers had been keeping an eye on 4chan. Agent Barry Couch referred to “FBI agents’ observation of posting activity on the 4chan Website.”
As agents raided his home, Henderson was asked about 4chan, he “indicated that he had heard of it, had visited it, and had probably posted messages on it in the past.” In response to FBI queries about the production of coupons, the complaint notes, Henderson stated, “I did write the manual. I wrote what I could. I thought it was an interesting thing.”
According to RIT’s web site, Henderson, a Texas native, is studying for a degree in information security and forensics. He expects to graduate next year and is “looking for a job in the field of Computer Security.” (9 pages)

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