Anthony Murgio and Josh Aaron, 31, are two Phi Sigma Kappa brothers who attended Florida State University beginning in 2002 and figured out a way to help their fraternity brothers pay their way through school by writing Google ads that were enticing enough to have people click on them which in turn generated profits. While this was all fun and legal, Murgio and Aaron soon moved into the dark side of the Internet: bitcoin money laundering for hackers involving penny stocks. According to Bloomberg,
Federal prosecutors say the 31-year-olds have since used their skills unlawfully. In indictments unsealed on July 21, Murgio is accused of running a Bitcoin exchange that laundered money for hackers. Aaron is accused of a pump-and-dump scam that used expertly crafted spam e-mails to lure investors into worthless penny stock purchases, generating $2.8 million in illicit profits. Although those indictments don’t involve hacking, an FBI memo reviewed by Bloomberg also links the two men to last summer’s cyber attack on JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest bank hacks in U.S. history.
According to the FBI’s indictment against Aaron, only one year after starting his own Internet marketing firm he was “deep in a stock-fraud scheme” which lasted up until this year. As for Murgio, the nightlife business he had started after college had begun to crumble:
Starting around 2010, Murgio’s nightlife business crumbled. He was in litigation with his landlord and was arrested in October 2011 after clashing with police over noise complaints. He filed for bankruptcy protection six months later, citing $545,000 in debt, and in early 2013 was arrested on charges that he stole $111,000 in unreported sales taxes his businesses collected. Murgio told friends it was a paperwork mistake, and the charges were dropped after he paid the taxes.(via)
Despite pursuing different paths in life, Aaron and Murgio managed to keep in contact which led to what authorities allege is a 16-month period in which the Bitcoin exchange they were using to launder illegal funds “including extortion payments made to hackers” managed to exchange, at the very least, $1.8 million. Neither Murgio nor Aaron are accused of directly hacking JPMorgan, however an FBI memo “outlined some evidence linking them to the attack, including records of Aaron logging in to servers associated with the breach of the bank’s main data center, where the hackers made off with personal data of 83 million customers over three months.”
Murgio was arrested in Tampa and is currently out on bond, while Aaron is in the wind.