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NDFCU’s scammer identified

Marcela Berrios | Friday, September 7, 2007

Police in Fullerton, Calif., released the name of the man arrested Tuesday in connection to the Notre Dame Federal Credit Union (NDFCU) e-mail scam and said he could face years in prison if convicted of online fraud.

Francisc A. Wonerth, 32, was arrested Tuesday at 1 a.m. after a Fullerton police officer ran a check on Wonerth’s Illinois license plate and discovered the vehicle he was driving had been reported stolen in Chicago in August 2006, officials said.

Sgt. Linda King of the Fullerton Police Department said Thursday that officers at the scene were inspecting the vehicle when they discovered 18 American Express gift cards with a magnetic strip recoded with the debit card information stolen online.

On Aug. 31, many members of the credit union received a wave of e-mails that redirected them to a mock-up of the NDFCU Web site and prompted them to enter sensitive account information and passwords.

NDFCU President Leo Ditchcreek said Tuesday more than 60 customers had given out their personal information to the Web site, but only five accounts had reported suspicious transactions during Labor Day weekend.

The transactions added up to over $2,000, Ditchcreek said.

He said the Fullerton Police Department contacted him Wednesday to tell him about Wonerth’s arrest in connection to the scam.

Wonerth was charged Tuesday with auto theft, possession of stolen property and fraudulent use of an access card, King said. She could not say if Wonerth had a prior police record or how many years of jail time he could face if he were convicted.

“The investigation is still underway,” King said. “We can’t know how long he could be in jail until we identify all the victims and all the accounts he got from the scam. But if a court convicts him of these charges, he will definitely be spending a few years in prison.”

She said Wonerth was the only name tied to the fraud Thursday.

“We’re still trying to determine out when and where the scam was set up,” King said. “We don’t know if this happened in Indiana and he made the cards and drove out [to California] or how this happened or if he was working with someone else.”

Ditchcreek said Tuesday the credit union’s technology staff had traced the origin of the e-mails and the Web site to a service provider in the Netherlands.

King said Wonerth had not been charged with the fraud Thursday because investigators were still looking into his role in setting up the Web site and sending the e-mails.

Wonerth, possibly from the Chicago area, remained in custody Thursday.

The Aug. 31 e-mails with the fraudulent link told users to review their account information because there were “one or more unsuccessful attempts to log in to your Online Banking Account … from a foreign IP address.”

Students, people outside the Notre Dame community, NDFCU members and non-members received the e-mails, Ditchcreek said.

On Thursday, authorities were still investigating the origin of the e-mail list used in the scam, King said.