DOJ: Darkweb Counterfeiter "WillyCLock" Pleaded Guilty
WillyClock, who counterfeited more than $2 million USD and sold them on the darkweb, pleaded guilty to two counterfeiting charges and one money laundering charge in a Pennsylvania district court.
2018: The Counterfeiter Pleaded Guilty
PITTSBURGH – A United States citizen who resided in the Republic of Uganda pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of conspiracy to manufacture/pass/transfer/sell counterfeit currency, conspiracy to launder money, and committing counterfeiting acts outside the United States, United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today.
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, aka Jack Farrel, aka WillyClock, age 31, pleaded guilty to three counts before Chief United States District Judge Mark Hornak.
In connection with the guilty plea, the court was advised that Ryan Gustafson was leading an international counterfeit U.S. currency operation headquartered in the Republic of Uganda, which flooded the United States and Uganda with more than $2 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes. Although counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes were being manufactured and distributed in Uganda, by December 2013, these Ugandan-manufactured counterfeit bills were being passed in Pittsburgh-area retail stores and businesses, specifically, in Oakland, Carnegie and McCandless Township. The scheme quickly spread to cities around the country. The bills were being advertised, bought and sold on a Dark Net website created by Gustafson called Community-X that was dedicated to the selling and passing of these counterfeit bills.
According to additional information provided to the court, the participants were producing counterfeit $100, $50 and $20 bills, packaging the counterfeit currency disguised as “Give a Child Hope Today” pamphlets, and shipping the packages to individuals they met through online criminal forums. In total, approximately $1.8 million fake notes were passed and seized in Uganda. In the U.S., approximately $270,000 in counterfeit currency was passed and seized. The criminal conspirators were passing the counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes in exchange for legitimate currency in the United States, Uganda and other countries.
Judge Hornak scheduled sentencing for July 23, 2019. The law provides for a total sentence of 45 years in prison, a fine of $1,000,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
The U.S. Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security/Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation that led to the prosecution of Ryan Andrew Gustafson.
2015: The Counterfeiter Extradited from Uganda
PITTSBURGH - A United States citizen has been deported from the Republic of Uganda and brought to the Western District of Pennsylvania to face charges of leading an international counterfeit currency operation headquartered in that African nation. The announcement was made today by David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Eric Zahren, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service – Pittsburgh Field Office.
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, aka Jack Farrel, aka Willy Clock, 28, is charged with conspiracy, conspiracy to launder money, and the passing and receiving of counterfeit money from December 2013 until December 2014. The indictment alleges more than $1.4 million in counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes have been seized and passed worldwide, both overseas and in the U.S. as part of this scheme.
Gustafson had been on trial in Uganda on a number of charges, including possessing counterfeit money. He was deported Dec. 3 and arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday evening. He will be presented before Chief U.S. District Magistrate Maureen Kelly today at 2:30 p.m. for an Initial Appearance. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Mark R. Hornak.
“Identifying, charging and returning Ryan Gustafson to the United States from Uganda required extensive cooperation among diverse international law enforcement partners and expert coordination among the Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,” stated U.S. Attorney Hickton. “As a result, a multimillion dollar international cyber counterfeiting scheme has been disrupted and its principal will face justice on American soil. This investigation demonstrates our relentless resolve to identify cyber criminals overseas and bring them back to the United States to be tried for their crimes.”
“This international counterfeit currency investigation and subsequent arrests illustrate Secret Service expertise in safeguarding the Nation’s financial infrastructure since inception,” said Special Agent in Charge Zahren. “We will continue to work closely with our network of law enforcement partners to dismantle criminal enterprises seeking to victimize innocent victims, regardless of geographic distance or borders. Special thanks to Ugandan law enforcement officials and the United States Embassy Uganda for their assistance.”
Gustafson, a U.S. citizen residing in Kampala, Uganda, was originally charged by criminal complaint in December 2014. The April 1, 2015, indictment naming Gustafson also charged three additional defendants with conspiracy and conspiracy to launder money from December 2013 until December 2014. Those defendants are:
Zackary L. Ruiz, aka Mr. Mouse, 19, of Las Vegas, Nevada, who is pending trial;
Jeremy J. Miller, aka Sinner, 31, of Seattle, Washington, who is pending trial; and
Michael Q. Lin, aka Mlin, aka Mr. Casino, 21, of Bethlehem, Penn., who pleaded guilty on Nov. 9, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 16, 2016.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul S. Desai is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
U.S. Attorney Hickton commended numerous agencies and organizations for conducting the investigation leading to charges in this case, including the Directorate of Public Prosecution, the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, the Special Investigations and Intelligence Unit, and Stanbic Bank in Uganda; the U.S. Secret Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance.
2014: Charges Filed Against the Counterfeiter
U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Eric P. Zahren of the Pittsburgh Field Office today announced the filing of a criminal complaint in Pittsburgh charging a U.S. citizen with leading an international counterfeit currency operation headquartered in the Republic of Uganda.
Ryan Andrew Gustafson, aka Jack Farrel, aka Willy Clock, 27, a U.S. citizen currently residing in Kampala, Uganda, was charged with conspiracy and counterfeiting acts committed outside of the U.S. When he lived in the United States, he mainly resided in Texas and Colorado.
“This complicated, international cyber counterfeiting conspiracy was broken as a result of expert investigation by the Secret Service and a total commitment of all cooperating law enforcement to reject the premise that criminals committing cybercrimes in the U.S. – but who reside outside our borders – cannot be reached,” stated U.S. Attorney Hickton. “We will hold cyber criminals accountable and bring them to justice no matter where they reside.”
“This investigation involves the manufacture of counterfeit U.S. currency, which has been the Secret Service’s core mission since 1865,” said Special Agent in Charge Zahren. “Add to that the modern elements of an international counterfeiting conspiracy utilizing new-age, cyber technology, and it represents the full evolution and unique investigative capabilities of today’s Secret Service.”
As detailed in the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, in December 2013, the Secret Service began investigating the passing of counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes (FRNs), believed to be manufactured in Uganda, at Pittsburgh-area retail stores and businesses. Agents determined that an individual identified as J.G. had passed these notes and was renting a postal box at The UPS Store on Pittsburgh’s South Side. On Feb 19, 2014, law enforcement learned that J.G. received three packages addressed from Beyond Computers, located in Kampala, Uganda. Agents executing a search warrant on the packages found $7,000 in counterfeit $100, $50 and $20 FRNs located in two hidden compartments within the packaging envelopes. A fingerprint on a document inside one of the packages was identified as belonging to Ryan Andrew Gustafson.
According to the affidavit, J.G. met “Willy Clock” on an online criminal forum called Tor Carding Forum. Through private messaging, J.G. and Clock discussed counterfeit currency and J.G. agreed to purchase counterfeit FRNs.
In January 2014, Clock told J.G. that he had established his own online forum called Community-X, a website dedicated to the selling of counterfeit reserve notes. The forum requires a username and password to access the site, and individuals must be invited and approved by Clock to become members. Secret Service used an undercover operative to communicate with Clock through the website, to purchase additional counterfeit $100 FRNs, and to become a re-shipper of counterfeit notes.
In November 2014, the Secret Service executed a search warrant at the residence of another re-shipper, who had been an active member of Community-X. This person cooperated and provided information that a forum member had traveled to Uganda and brought back more than $300,000 in counterfeit notes.
The Secret Service, working with Ugandan authorities, engaged yet another confidential informant, in Uganda, who had knowledge of Jack Farrel and his counterfeiting operations. On Dec. 11 2014, this confidential informant called Farrel to arrange to purchase counterfeit FRNs. The informant met Farrel’s associate and made the buy. Two trusted sources followed the associate back to Farrel’s home and reported the location to the Secret Service who turned it over to the Uganda Special Investigations Unit. Their search of Farrel’s residence netted two million Ugandan shillings from the buy; $180,420 in counterfeit FRNs; counterfeit Euros, Indian Rupees, Ugandan Shillings, Congo Francs, and Ghana Cedis; computers and printers; inks and ink jet cartridges; paper cutters; glue sticks; “Give a Child Hope Today” pamphlets with counterfeit FRNs in between glued together pages; and a pair of “Anon Hands.” Anon Hands are life-like rubber molds that fit like gloves over the user’s hands and are meant to conceal the wearer’s fingerprints. As noted above Farrel has been identified as Gustafson. Evidence collected at the scene also allowed investigators to identify Gustafson as Willy Clock.
Gustafson was charged by Ugandan authorities on Dec. 16 with conspiracy, possession of counterfeit, selling/dealing in counterfeit, and unlawful possession of ammunition. He was brought before the court that day to be informed about the charges; he also is being represented by counsel in Uganda.
U.S. Secret Service estimates $1.8 million in counterfeit FRNs have been seized and passed in Uganda. The total amount of Ugandan-made counterfeit FRNs seized or passed domestically was approximately $270,000. This amount was limited due to early detection by the Secret Service.
U.S. law provides for a maximum total sentence of 25 years in prison, a fine of $500,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offense and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
U.S. Attorney Hickton commended numerous agencies and organizations for conducting the investigation leading to charges in this case, including the Directorate of Public Prosecution, the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department, the Special Investigations and Intelligence Unit, and Stanbic Bank in Uganda; various domestic and foreign Secret Service Field Offices, including the Rome, Italy, Field Office and the Criminal Investigative Division in Washington, D.C.; the U.S. State Department; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Shardul S. Desai is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
A criminal complaint contains charges and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.