Ex-DEA spokesman posed as CIA agent in $4 million fraud scheme claiming to offer protection against state-sponsored hacking groups
Whether its Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran, state-sponsored hacking groups are wreaking havoc on the U.S. and European companies. Only the other day, the Austrian top ISP, A1 Telekom was allegedly hacked into by Chinese sponsored hacking group Gallium. These state-sponsored hacking groups have superior hacking knowledge and sophisticated tools and malware to hack into any company based in the U.S., Europe, Japan, South Korea, India. This irrational fear of state-sponsored hacking groups creates opportunities for frauds and scamsters who are ready to prey on such companies.
Garrison Kenneth Courtney, a 44-year-old former Drug Enforcement Administration public affairs officer is one such U.S. government official who abused the irrational fear among companies by claiming to be a CIA agent and an Army veteran with 100s of confirmed kills. He offered his services to the companies as a consultant to protect them from state-sponsored hacking groups. In the process, he amassed nearly $4 million in ill-gotten wealth.
Courtney’s luck didn’t last long. Department of Justice announced that pleaded guilty to defrauding a dozen companies for more than $4.4 million by posing as a CIA officer. DoJ says that Courtney claimed to be a “covert agent” of CIA and had high-level contacts within the U.S. intelligence community and the Department of Defense. However, Courtney was a big fraud. DoJ notes: “In truth, Courtney had never been employed by the CIA, and the task force that he described did not exist.”
Tech companies that paid him six figures were obviously paranoid about state-sponsored hacking groups targetting them. Courtney fed on these fears by forcing the companies to hire and pay him to create a “commercial cover,” to mask his supposed affiliation with the CIA. He sold his cover story by claiming he was an Army vet with “hundreds of confirmed kills” in combat.
To sell his fraud scheme, Courtney told the company executives he met that they were under surveillance by foreign intelligence agencies. He always met them at sensitive compartmented information facilities, called SCIFs, to give the illusion that he was a CIA bigshot with the right kind of knowledge. He even created fake letters claiming to be from the Attorney General of the United States promising immunity to those who participated in the covert program.
Many companies fell for Courtney’s fraud as can be seen from the $4 million he milked from them. However, Courtney slipped somewhere down the line and was arrested. Courtney will be sentenced on Oct. 23. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud.
Courtney’s story reads like a blockbuster film script. Maybe he will sell the rights for books and films while in prison.