Thursday, a man admitted laundering over $19.6 million, in support of a massive international computer hacking and telecommunications fraud scheme.
Pakistani citizen Muhammad Sohail Qasmani, 47, formerly of Bangkok, Thailand, pleaded guilty before a US judge to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
According to court files, hackers first compromised businesses' PBX systems -- the computer systems that run internal telephone systems of the businesses. They would then identify unused extensions, reprogram them so they could be used to make long distance phone calls charged back to the victim business.
The hacked phones were then used to make calls to phony premium telephone numbers -- essentially recordings made to sound like the voicemail messages or prompts of phone sex, psychic hotlines, and other services that charge per-minute.
Qasmani laundered and transmitted money to approximately 650 individuals involved in the scheme over four years. If convicted, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Hacking is being used to support other kinds of criminal enterprises more often.
In November, unsealed court documents revealed that the attackers behind the massive JP Morgan Chase breach that exposed data on 83 million customers were actually, "using hacking to support a diverse criminal conglomerate," according to the U.S. Attorney. The ringleaders were using cyber-espionage and data breaches to commit and enhance their securities fraud, illegal gambling, illegal Bitcoin exchange, and illegal payment processing operations.