A US court sentenced an Indian to 81 months in prison on conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges arising from an international fraud scheme to “hack” into online brokerage accounts in America and use those accounts to manipulate stock prices.

Jaisanker Marimuthu, a native of Chennai, who was extradited to the US following his arrest in Hong Kong, was also ordered by the court to pay USD 2.4 million in restitution.

Marimuthu, 36, had pleaded guilty on February 5 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, computer fraud and to one count of aggravated identity theft before US District Magistrate Judge in a Nebraska court.

According to court documents, he was part of a conspiracy that operated out of Thailand and India from February 2006 through December 2006 in which the prices of thinly-traded securities were fraudulently inflated by hacking into brokerage accounts in the US and then illegally using the accounts to make large, unauthorized purchases of securities in the name of the unsuspecting customers.

Marimuthu admitted that after the price of the securities had been artificially increased or “pumped up” through the bogus trading, the conspirators’ own holdings of the securities would be sold at a profit.

More than 90 customers and seven brokerage firms in the US have been identified as victims, the US Department of Justice said.

Financial losses of close to USD 2.5 million were sustained by the victims in this case.

Co-defendant Thirugnanam Ramanathan, 37, pleaded guilty on June 2, 2008, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, securities fraud, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Following his arrest in Hong Kong, Ramanathan was extradited on May 25, 2007, to the US.

Ramanathan was sentenced to two years in prison by Judge Camp, and has since been returned to India following completion of his sentence.

Co-defendant Chockalingham Ramanathan, 36, was charged with one count of conspiracy, eight counts of computer fraud, six counts of wire fraud, two counts of securities fraud and six counts of aggravated identity theft.

Chockalingham Ramanathan remains at large.

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