AOH :: ISNQ3553.HTM

I Was a Cybercrook for the FBI




I Was a Cybercrook for the FBI
I Was a Cybercrook for the FBI



http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,72515-0.html 

By Kim Zetter
Jan, 30, 2007

By the time David Thomas eased his Cadillac into the parking lot of an 
office complex in Issaquah, Washington, he already suspected the police 
were on to him.

An empty Crown Victoria in one of the parking spaces confirmed it. 
"That's heat right there," he told his two passengers -- 29-year-old 
girlfriend Bridget Trevino, and his crime partner Kim Marvin Taylor, a 
balding, middle-aged master of fake identities he'd met on the internet.

It was November 2002, and Thomas, then a 44-year-old Texan, was in 
Washington to collect more than $30,000 in merchandise that a Ukrainian 
known as "Big Buyer" ordered from Outpost.com with stolen credit card 
numbers. His job was to collect the goods from a mail drop, fence them 
on eBay and wire the money to Russia, pocketing 40 percent of the take 
before moving to another city to repeat the scam.

But things didn't go as planned.

Ignoring Thomas' suspicions, Taylor walked into the Meadow Creek 
Professional Center to collect the Outpost shipment, and found the cops 
waiting for him. Thomas and his girlfriend tried to escape in the 
Cadillac but were caught half a mile away.

An ID badge that Taylor wore when he was arrested indicated that he 
worked for Microsoft. But that was no more accurate than the two-dozen 
other employee badges he possessed for E-Trade and AT&T Broadband, or 
the 15 driver's licenses from various states that featured his congenial 
face and a dozen aliases. Nor did Thomas's California driver's license 
help authorities identify him. Although it had his picture, the name and 
address on the ID belonged to a producer for the A&E channel.

With so many fake IDs in play it was unclear to police exactly who they 
had in custody. Then as they read Thomas his rights, he told them: "Get 
me some federal agents and I'll give you a case involving the Russians 
and millions of dollars."

Thus was the beginning of Thomas' turn to the other side. For 18 months 
beginning in April 2003, Thomas worked as a "paid asset" for the FBI 
running a website for identity and credit card thieves from a 
government-supplied apartment in the tony Queen Anne neighborhood of 
Seattle.

 From bedrise to bedrest, seven days a week, he rode the boards and 
forums of his and other carding sites using the online nickname El 
Mariachi. He recorded private messages and IRC chats for the FBI as 
"carders" schemed to, among other things, sell stolen credit and debit 
card numbers, defraud the George Bush and John Kerry campaign sites, 
drain hundreds of thousands of dollars from bank and investment 
accounts, sell access to Paris Hilton's T-Mobile account and run 
phishing scams against U.S. Bank and the FDIC. He did it all while 
battling denial-of-service attacks against his site and dodging attempts 
by his old partner Taylor and other carders to track his whereabouts and 
out him as a fed.

Just as his enemies were closing in on him in September 2004, the FBI 
pulled the plug on his work and cut him loose. But not before Thomas had 
given authorities a valuable look at the internet's underworld, even 
though the strain of leading a double life nearly broke him.

Now Thomas is telling the story of his work during this period. It's a 
tale that provides a rare glimpse of the thriving international computer 
underground of high and low-tech thieves and swindlers whose crimes cost 
millions each year. It also illuminates the rarely seen world of federal 
law enforcement's war against these organized criminals, and the moral 
and ethical tradeoffs sworn agents make in pursuing their mission -- 
providing crooks with an electronic marketplace where they can 
congregate and conduct their ignominious business anonymously. Even 
allowing some crimes to go unpunished.

The full scope of the problem is hard to judge, but nonetheless 
staggering. U.S. banks lost $546 million to debit card fraud in 2004, 
according to banking research firm Dove Consulting, and credit card 
fraud losses were estimated to be about $3.8 billion globally in 2003 
according to The Nilson Report. The Federal Trade Commission estimates 
that 10 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. The 
financial impact of identity theft remains untold.

Thomas says he is telling his story now because he's tired of the life 
he's lived on the boards over the last five years and resentful of the 
control the FBI maintained over him for so long. He also wants to warn 
the public about the risks they face from the carding community and 
deter kids from being seduced into a life of crime.

The FBI's Seattle office wouldn't discuss Thomas, and neither confirmed 
nor denied that he worked for them. But over the last year Wired News 
verified other key aspects of Thomas' account in dozens of interviews 
with members of the underground, victims of online crimes he observed, 
as well as attorneys and other people connected with Thomas -- his 
former apartment manager, for example, confirmed that the FBI paid 
Thomas' rent.

Additionally, Thomas provided hundreds of chat logs and forum posts from 
his former website, The Grifters [1] -- a criminal marketplace that 
played a key role in a parade of diverse frauds, ranging from bank theft 
to telephone records hacking, all unfolding in a sprawling international 
tableau spanning from the former Soviet empire to the tropics of 
Colombia.

It was July 2004 and Brian Campbell had been on Isla Mujeres off the 
coast of Cancun for three days for a relative's wedding when he 
discovered he'd been scammed.

An American MBA student studying in Australia at the time, Campbell (not 
his real name [2]) was accustomed to checking his investment portfolio 
daily over the internet. But the wedding distracted him a couple of 
days, and when he finally got online, he found he was locked out of his 
Schwab trading account.

He called Schwab and discovered that his user name and password had been 
changed. What's more, $106,000 had recently been wired from his account 
to a Fortis bank account in Belgium. Campbell hadn't requested the 
transfer.

Unknown to Campbell, a cyber thief who went by the nick "desertmack" had 
gained access to his e-mail account and had been watching him for weeks. 
The Mexico wedding was the break desertmack needed. He'd been hoping a 
little tequila and sunshine would distract Campbell from obsessively 
checking his brokerage account long enough to steal the money and send 
it to Brussels, where an accomplice would withdraw it.

But while desertmack was watching Campbell, the FBI was watching him. Or 
at least David Thomas was. Sitting in a 500-square-foot Seattle 
apartment, window shades drawn and cramped with three computers that 
emitted an oppressive heat, Thomas recorded every conversation that 
desertmack and his accomplice, who used the nick jonjacob, exchanged in 
a private area of TheGrifters.net.

TheGrifters was a members-only "carding" site that Thomas launched in 
December 2003, eight months after beginning his work for the FBI. The 
goal of the site was to attract identity and bank thieves. It was the 
kind of site authorities called a "build it and they will come" site. 
And they did.

By mid-2004 the site was crawling with thieves trafficking in fake IDs, 
stolen credit card numbers, card-embossing equipment and ATM skimmers 
that capture data on a debit card's magnetic stripe so criminals can 
encode it on blank cards and drain an account. TheGrifters was a 
successful crime hub in a crowded field, competing with other sites like 
Shadowcrew, CarderPlanet and DarkProfits to attract the biggest 
criminals.

None of the carders knew that Thomas was working for law enforcement, 
although there were many who accused him of it. Indeed, if a carder was 
arrested and returned to the boards, as Thomas had done, often he was 
working for "LE," in carder lingo. But the boards were always thick with 
a fog of police paranoia, and no one took the accusations seriously 
enough to stay away from Thomas.

Thomas began following desertmack closely after he saw the crook 
purchase a credit report for Campbell from a Florida woman who used the 
nick Decepgal. Decep ran a carding site called Muzzfuzz and, according 
to bankruptcy filings in her real name, worked as a transcriber of 
psychiatrists' notes. She also ran a side business selling credit 
reports to identity thieves -- $40 for a standard report or $75 for 
full-info reports that included a victim's property holdings, bankruptcy 
filings and lists of possible relatives [3]

The report, coupled with e-mail account statements, gave desertmack all 
he needed to access Campbell's Schwab account and initiate the money 
transfer. Jonjacob and another associate in Brussels then opened a 
Fortis business account -- chosen because of the bank's $40,000-a-day 
withdrawal limit on such accounts. As the day for the transfer neared, 
the thieves could hardly contain their excitement: "Hehe, fingers firmly 
crossed, along with my legs, testicles and anything else I can think 
of," one associate wrote desertmack.

Then, on the day of the theft: "well ... I expect our friends are off 
enjoying their holiday. And with a bit of luck, you're busy raping that 
juicy account of theirs."

The night before the attack, desertmack changed the contact number on 
Campbell's account so Schwab would call him for verification instead of 
Campbell if it suspected the wire request was fraudulent. The ruse 
worked. Within 24 hours the money was on its way to Brussels. But that 
was the last desertmack heard of it. Once the funds were overseas, his 
accomplice jonjacob disappeared.

If desertmack suspected a double-cross, he was wrong. Campbell, who 
confirmed the details of the theft for Wired News, learned from Schwab 
that a suspect was arrested in Brussels while trying to withdraw money 
from Fortis. [4])

Shortly after that, it appears that desertmack was arrested too, though 
not for the Schwab crime. Oregon sheriffs arrested a 47-year-old man on 
unrelated identity theft charges in September 2004, after his wife was 
involved in a car accident and deputies discovered outstanding warrants 
on both of them for an old eBay fraud caper.

Police searching the couple's apartment found equipment for making 
credit cards and fake IDs, as well as 432 stolen credit card numbers, 
176 bank account and routing numbers and boxes of credit reports in 
other people's names. E-mail found in the suspect's computer inbox was 
addressed to desertmack@mailvault.com. 

"He was very organized," Oregon deputy sheriff David Thompson told Wired 
News. He had 510 dossiers on victims that consisted of "each person's 
credit cards and IDs that he had created, bundled up with a rubber band 
so that he could just grab a bundle and have that identity for a day to 
go out and go shopping." The suspect claimed it was all research for a 
book he was writing about fraud prevention.

Oregon FBI spokeswoman Beth Ann Steele said the man was suspected of 
initiating the Schwab wire transfer, but said the bureau didn't pursue 
charges because local authorities had a stronger identity theft case 
against him.

The Schwab case illustrates a running theme in Thomas' dealings with the 
FBI. Although Thomas says he provided his handlers at the Seattle FBI 
with logs depicting desertmack's scheme, the bureau apparently never 
acted on that information -- the Oregon FBI only learned of the theft 
because Campbell, the victim, reported it himself after it occurred. "If 
we had left it up to Schwab, they might never have gotten the FBI 
involved at all," Campbell says [5],

Schwab, too, was less than responsive. Campbell got his money back from 
the company only after several calls to the firm pointing out the 
obvious security flaws in a system that failed to flag a wire request 
made on an account a day after contact information on the account was 
changed. "Schwab was pretty bad with customer service," Campbell says. 
"For a long time they wouldn't tell me they were going to take 
responsibility for it and return (the money)." (Schwab had no comment).

As for Thomas, he was unaware of desertmack's fate until Wired News 
tracked down the suspect. As with all of the information Thomas provided 
the FBI, he was kept in the dark and never knew what, if anything, the 
agency did with the intelligence he gave his handler.

Thomas began his work for the FBI five months after his Issaquah arrest 
and after serving three months in jail. His partner, Kim Marvin Taylor, 
known by the nick "Macgyver," left Washington before he could be 
charged, and landed quickly back on Shadowcrew, where he was a top 
administrator of the site.

After Thomas' arrest, federal agents came to see him in jail, as he'd 
requested. He told Secret Service agent Michael Levin what he'd done for 
the Russians, but Levin wasn't impressed. According to Thomas, the agent 
replied that he had multi-million-dollar cases on his desk and wasn't 
going to waste time on a lousy $50,000 internet scam.

Seattle FBI Agent Steve Butler also came to see him and seemed just as 
unresponsive at first. The jailhouse chat through a glass partition 
lasted less than 10 minutes with no mention of a job. But when Thomas 
was transferred to Nebraska to face an outstanding warrant for check 
fraud, Butler showed up for a repeat visit, an assistant U.S. attorney 
in tow.

The agent laid out his plan: Thomas would work for the Northwest Cyber 
Crimes Task Force in Seattle to gather intelligence and teach Butler how 
the carding sites operated; in return, the FBI would pay his rent and 
all of his expenses. It would be an intelligence gathering mission, not 
aimed at making arrests, but rather at learning how the international 
carding scene operated.

"They made a big show down there," Thomas says. "They told me that 
they'd take care of me, and I'd have a legit job with them." [6].

He didn't have to think twice. No one had ever sought him out for work 
before, and in an age of background checks they likely wouldn't. But 
that wasn't the only reason he took the offer. He wanted to write a book 
about the carding world, and figured this was the perfect chance to 
gather material. "(The FBI) wanted to see just what they could get out 
of it, and I wanted to see what was really going on and to write about 
it," Thomas says. "It was a win-win situation." [7].

His lawyer got the Nebraska charges reduced to a misdemeanor and fine, 
and by April 2003 Thomas was back in Seattle, where girlfriend Trevino 
joined him, and on the boards, using computers the FBI supplied him.

But almost immediately the words he'd spoken in Issaquah came back to 
bite him. On CarderPlanet, someone posted a copy of his police report 
containing the statement he made to police about the Russians and 
federal agents. Taylor, still a fugitive, took to the boards and accused 
Thomas of selling him out to the feds. A war of words broke out between 
Thomas' supporters on CarderPlanet and Taylor's supporters at 
Shadowcrew.

"All of a sudden, whatever I was hired to do (for the FBI) looked like I 
wasn't going to be able to do it," Thomas says. "In my mind I was toast. 
Because that report was too damning."

Thomas denied the claims to little avail. Then, two months later Taylor 
was jailed in Colorado on new charges unrelated to the Issaquah bust. He 
served eleven months before being released in May 2004.

But his absence did little to foster calm. Over the next year, the board 
war would escalate from verbal scuffling to all-out Joe Jobs and DDoS 
attacks. And every 45 days or so when things would quiet down, someone 
would repost Thomas' police report to stir them up again.

Between battling other carders and gathering information for the feds, 
Thomas's workdays were long and full of non-stop activity.

He became obsessed with knowing everything that was happening on the 
boards. He'd often sleep during the day, then work all night when the 
boards were most active. Each day when he awoke, he'd hop on the boards 
to see what had happened while he'd slept. Were any carding sites down? 
Had anyone been arrested? Then he'd run through a checklist of scams 
unfolding that day. He spent 18 to 20 hours a day online with 15 to 20 
chat windows open on his screen at a time. When he wasn't chatting 
online, he was talking on the phone.

"People would talk to me -- I've got this deal, I've got that deal. What 
do you think of this, what do you think of that?" he says. "El had a 
huge following."

His job was to log every message he received and sent as well as every 
note that members posted to the boards. At the end of each day he sent 
Butler a report. Sometimes there were more than 300 messages in a single 
discussion thread. Every morning Butler debriefed him by phone, and once 
a week they met in person. Everything he recorded for the FBI, he 
recorded for himself as well.

His task for the FBI was to track who was doing what, which wasn't 
always easy since members changed their nicks often and used anonymous 
e-mail, proxy servers and pre-paid cell phones to mask their identities 
and whereabouts. Occasionally, however, they'd let their guard down. 
Thomas never pressed for details. But like a good psychiatrist, he did 
the cyber equivalent of nodding with interest, and people were happy to 
talk.

Ironically, even though the carders constantly accused each other of 
working for the feds, they often acted as if a cloak of invisibility 
shielded them. Larry Johnson, special agent for the Secret Service's 
investigative division who headed an undercover operation for his agency 
on the boards, says agents were often dumbfounded by the carders' lack 
of discretion. "If I were going undercover they would accuse me, accuse 
me and accuse me (of being a fed) and then buy something from me 
(anyway)," he says. "Figure that out."

Thomas says the carders believed they operated in a protected world. "It 
was all some fantasy criminal paradise," he says. "Nobody believed law 
enforcement was out there in force."

In truth, law enforcement agents were (and still are) some of the fraud 
sites' most determined users, and it wasn't just undercover U.S. feds 
scouring the boards. There were also agents from Russia, the U.K., 
Australia, Israel and Brazil. Fraud investigators from Visa, Bank of 
America, eBay and others also lurked on the sites, determined to gather 
intelligence about threats to their customers.

The presence of so many watchers meant that authorities sometimes 
targeted the wrong person for investigation. Although U.S. agencies held 
deconfliction meetings to apprise each other of who was doing what, word 
didn't always get around. When Thomas once asked Butler who was the 
biggest target the feds were tracking, Butler laughed and replied, 
"You're the biggest target. Everyone is after you."

Although the Seattle neighborhood where Thomas lived was upscale, his 
apartment was strictly low-rent. Except for a small couch and TV, the 
only living room furniture was an Ikea table that groaned from the 
weight of two desktop computers -- one for watching the boards and 
chatting with carders, the other later used for hosting TheGrifters -- 
and a laptop for compiling reports to Butler. Trevino occasionally 
helped out with research but for the most part avoided Thomas's work and 
spent her time chatting with friends online and playing digital games.

"I didn't want to be there doing what he was doing," Trevino says. "I 
didn't want to be a part of it. Because I had done my time (in the 
carding community) and I didn't want to do any more."

To conduct his work, Thomas was allowed to facilitate and commit crimes, 
but only after clearing them with Butler. Butler said undercover agents 
from other agencies who didn't know what Thomas was up to would try to 
set him up, and Butler would need to run interference when he saw it 
happening. He was also told that if he committed any crimes without 
clearing them first, Butler would make sure that he went to prison, and 
that other inmates would know he'd worked for the FBI. [8].

The boards had a strict hierarchy that Thomas had little trouble 
infiltrating. At the top were administrators, like Taylor, who handled 
day-to-day operations and served as gatekeepers to private areas of the 
board where the best deals were made. Admins also meted out punishment 
to carders they didn't like or to "rippers" who cheated fellow carders.

An admin could ban someone from the board or, worse, post his photo 
online and expose his identity. The pictures came from fake-ID vendors 
who often held on to the photos of customers just to use them when 
someone got out of line.

Beneath the admins were moderators who oversaw forums dedicated to 
various topics, such as bank fraud and identity theft. Then came vendors 
and reviewers. Before a vendor could sell his merchandise on the boards, 
a reviewer evaluated the quality of his offerings based on such criteria 
as the quality of a hologram on a fake ID, or whether the stolen credit 
card numbers a vendor was hawking were still live and valid. Most 
reviews consisted of a couple of lines: "Cards good. Premium numbers 
with high balances."

The organized chain of command allowed a rich economy to flourish -- and 
the range of products and services at offer was staggering. While credit 
card fraud was a staple of the cyber underground, a wide variety of 
other crimes also unfolded -- and still unfold -- on the boards. Some 
underground denizens offered spamming and "bullet-proof" hosting 
services from servers placed in locations unreachable by law 
enforcement. Extortionists used botnets to deliver DDoS attacks against 
websites that didn't pay protection money. And hackers designed and sold 
rootkits, spyware and spam mailers, alongside peddlers of stolen source 
code from companies like Microsoft. Pretty much anything went in the 
underground if it could produce a profit.

Of course, the quickest way to make money was to, literally, make money. 
And when a Colombian counterfeiter named Dexer showed up on the boards 
peddling top-quality fake dollars and euros, Thomas was interested.

After consulting with Butler, Thomas asked Dexer to send him some sample 
bills to review their quality. Two weeks later they arrived at an FBI 
mail drop in Seattle, secreted in a hollowed-out book cover.

Although Thomas never saw the bills, Butler told him the counterfeiters 
had bleached $1 and $5 bills then printed $50 and $100 denominations 
onto the paper to produce near-perfect fakes. Thomas gave Dexer a 
glowing review on CarderPlanet, and orders began pouring in -- that is, 
until members started complaining that bills they ordered never arrived. 
Dexer said U.S. customs was holding them up. He discussed plans to get 
around the blockade, but shortly thereafter his nick disappeared from 
the boards, leading others to wonder whether he'd been arrested or 
simply skipped out to avoid the anger of dissatisfied customers who 
never received their bills.

Did the FBI move in on Dexer? As usual, Butler kept Thomas in the dark. 
The uneven power relationship between Thomas and his handler, and the 
increasing claustrophobic nature of Thomas's life, took their toll over 
time. The strain wasn't helped by the differences in Thomas' and 
Butler's personalities.

As Trevino describes him, Butler was the polar opposite of Thomas -- 
tall and confident with tightly cropped blond hair and the physique and 
jaw of a college jock. According to Thomas, Butler's background was in 
drug investigations not cyber crime, and the two of them frequently 
butted heads over how to run the operation, often resulting in shouting 
matches in Butler's car as they drove around the neighborhood for their 
debriefing sessions.

"He was very intelligent," Thomas says. "But ... we just never hit it 
off."

The conflict came to a head one day after Butler rebuffed Thomas's 
requests for some time off to get some rest. When Butler next phoned for 
their routine debriefing session, Thomas, exhausted, refused. "I'm on 
vacation."

Another shouting match ensued, culminating in Butler coming to the 
apartment and carting off the computer Thomas used to host TheGrifters 
website. As Butler left with the PC, he told Thomas he was fired and 
gave him a week to leave the apartment. Dumbfounded, Thomas sat there 
for days struggling to figure out where he'd go with no money when 
Butler, his point finally made, called back. "Okay. Are you ready to get 
back to work now?"

When TheGrifters went back online Thomas had to cover for his downtime 
by telling board members he'd been taken out by a DDoS attack.

The troubles with Butler were only compounded by the continuing attacks 
that Thomas faced from enemy carders trying to expose him and take out 
his site. To deal with the stress of maintaining his double identity and 
battling Butler, he'd often retreat to the bathroom where he'd turn on 
the shower and lie on the floor, letting the water run for hours to 
clear the chatter from his head.

The shower ran so long one month that the FBI got a bill for 18,000 
gallons of water. Thomas says federal investigators appeared at his door 
to see if he was growing marijuana or making homebrew. "They opened a 
federal investigation to find out where the water went," Thomas says 
laughing. "And the water went down the drain. Because it was my only way 
to relax."

Tomorrow: Enter the Russians.


-==-


[1] ... posts from his former website, The Grifters. The logs appear to
    be legitimate but Wired News was unable to verify that they were 
    recorded on behalf of the FBI or that they were unaltered by Thomas.

[2] Campbell asked Wired News not to publish his real name for fear that
    other thieves would target him.

[3] ... and lists of possible relatives. According to Thomas, Decep had
    previously worked for a Florida prosecutor and had access to a 
    Lexis-Nexis database used by law enforcement agents and businesses.

[4] ... trying to withdraw money from Fortis. I was unable to confirm
    the arrest in Brussels with either Schwab or the FBI.

[5] "If we had left it up to Schwab, they might never have gotten the
    FBI involved at all." Even then, it was the Oregon sheriff's 
    department that nailed the suspect on unrelated charges. And the 
    Oregon prosecutor handling the identity theft cast against the 
    suspect says no one told him about the Schwab crime and 
    investigation. The victim, Campbell, said he was told that 
    authorities were able to connect the suspect to the theft of his 
    Schwab money because the suspect had changed the contact phone 
    number on his account to the suspect's real cell phone number. I was 
    unable to confirm this.

[6] "They told me that they'd take care of me, and I'd have a legit job
    with them." One of Thomas's former public defenders in Seattle, 
    Thomas Hillier, was reluctant to speak with me but confirmed the 
    jailhouse visit with Butler. He said his memory of the four-year-old 
    case was foggy and that he didn't recall a federal job offer for 
    Thomas, although his file notes do contain a cryptic reference to a 
    job offer next to the name of former assistant U.S. Attorney Hugh 
    Berry. According to Thomas, Berry was the U.S. attorney who visited 
    him in Nebraska with FBI agent Steve Butler.

    The Nebraska prosecutor, Andrea Belgau, who Thomas says was present 
    at the Nebraska meeting with Butler and Berry, was also very 
    reluctant to discuss the meeting. "I can't speak very completely 
    about it other than he did offer assistance to the federal 
    authorities," she said. She wouldn't discuss the details, but said 
    she wouldn't dispute what Thomas told me either. "I don't think it's 
    appropriate for me to delve into it," she said. "The defendant may 
    be free to speak about it, but those of us employed by government 
    agencies have more restrictions."

[7] "It was a win-win situation." Thomas says the FBI paid him no
    salary, but covered his rent and expenses. The former apartment 
    manager at the complex where Thomas lived confirmed that the FBI 
    paid rent on the apartment and that FBI Agent Steve Butler and 
    another agent whom the manager identified as an FBI district 
    supervisor accompanied Thomas the day he and Trevino moved in. The 
    manager, who asked not be identified by name because he spoke 
    without permission from his former employer, said Butler gave him 
    his cell phone number and told him to call if Thomas caused any 
    problems while living there.

    Candace Hamel, who worked in the property management head office at 
    the time, said she couldn't confirm that the FBI paid for the 
    apartment, but then added after a pause and without prompting, "I'm 
    not denying it either." When asked if the management company had an 
    ongoing deal with the FBI to supply the agency with apartments, as 
    Thomas contends, Hamel again said she couldn't confirm or deny then 
    added, "That's confidential information."

    FBI Agent Steve Butler was polite and friendly but declined to 
    comment on whether Thomas worked for the FBI. "We would never 
    confirm or deny something like this," he said, saying that such 
    comments would make other people reluctant to work in such capacity 
    with the FBI. I should note here that there is a David A. Thomas who 
    works for the FBI as chief of the agency's Cyber Division Criminal 
    Computer Intrusion Unit. He's often quoted in articles about cyber 
    crime and should not be confused with David R. Thomas, who is the 
    source for this story.

[8] Butler would make sure that he went to prison, and that other
    inmates would know he'd worked for the FBI Thomas says he was cowed 
    by Butler's threat and never considered committing crimes behind his 
    back because he assumed the feds were watching his every move. But 
    recent court records involving another carder in South Carolina show 
    how easily a criminal working for the feds can commit crimes under 
    the nose of agents who are supposed to be watching him. According to 
    an affidavit in the case, while working a few hours each day out of 
    a government-supplied apartment, this other carder allegedly 
    continued to card secretly on the side.


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