US woman accused of stealing identities to give North Koreans jobs

US prosecutors have accused an American woman of helping North Koreans find remote jobs in the US and then send their wages back to North Korea. Christina Chapman is charged alongside three North Korean nationals with participating in the elaborate plot. The Arizona resident allegedly stole the identities of American citizens, then helped foreign IT workers use those identities to pose as Americans and gain employment at US companies, according to prosecutors. Ms Chapman has been charged with nine counts of conspiracy to defraud the US. Investigators said the “staggering” scheme used the stolen identities of 60 people, and generated nearly $7m (£5.5m) in funds that were sent back to North Korea, possibly to contribute to the country’s weapons programme. The scheme – involving some 300 US companies – allegedly started in October 2020. According to the indictment, the workers were “highly skilled information technology (IT) workers.” The companies, which were unaware of the scheme, were not identified, but officials said they included several Fortune 500 companies, as well as a major TV network, indicta defence company, a “premier” Silicon Valley tech company and an “iconic” American auto manufacturer.Ms Chapman, 49, allegedly ran a “laptop farm” from her home, where she would log into laptops issued by the companies so that it appeared the North Korean workers from other countries were physically in the US.She would then help the IT workers remotely connect to the laptops, and also help them to receive their wages from the companies, according to the 57-page charging document, external. The indictment says “in exchange, Chapman charged monthly fees to the overseas IT workers for her services, enriching herself off the scheme”.She also is accused of unsuccessfully trying to procure employment at US government agencies.”The charges in this case should be a wakeup call for American companies and government agencies that employ remote IT workers,” said Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.”These crimes benefitted the North Korean government, giving it a revenue stream and, in some instances, proprietary information stolen by the co-conspirators.” Officials said Ms Chapman was contacted in March 2020 by an unknown individual who asked her to “be the US face” of their company. Ms Chapman is charged alongside North Korean citizens Jiho Han, Chunji Jin, Haoran Xu who remain at large. All three have been tied to North Koreans Munitions Industry Department, according to the US State Department, which notes that the organisation handles ballistic missile and weapons production for North Korea. The US state department has offered $5m for “information that leads to the disruption” of North Korean money laundering and financial fraud crimes. Ms Chapman was arrested on Thursday in Arizona. It is unclear if she has hired a lawyer who could speak on her behalf.

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