Back in July, when federal prosecutors linked 31-year-olds Josh Aaron and Anthony Murgio with hackers who had spirited away personal data on 83 million JPMorgan Chase customers, people scratched their heads and wondered:
How had two fraternity brothers from Florida State University gotten into an incident that had JPMorgan levelling accusations against the Russian government?
Now Bloomberg has published a profile of the two accused. It describes them as a pair of entrepreneurial, upper-middle class guys who had mixed financial success in other endeavours and run-ins with the law. Both also frequently travelled to Russia.
According to the report by Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley, the two — Murgio as chapter president and Aaron as treasurer — ran something of a money making machine out of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, with fraternity brothers working shifts to write Google ads for thousands of dollars a month in commissions.
But none of their friends and family seem to have expected the indictments the FBI handed down, which are outlined in the story:
“Murgio is accused of running a Bitcoin exchange that laundered money for hackers. Aaron is accused of a pump-and-dump scam that used expertly crafted spam emails to lure investors into worthless penny stock purchases, generating $US2.8 million in illicit profits. Although those indictments don’t involve hacking, an FBI memo reviewed by Bloomberg also links the two men to last summer’s cyber attack on JPMorgan Chase, one of the largest bank hacks in U.S. history.”
They were two out of the five Americans charged in relation to the hacking incident. One other man was also a Florida State alumnus.
This is the newest information we have on the Murgio and Aaron:
1. Both came from affluent families.
Aaron grew up in well-to-do Washington suburb. Murgio’s family owned a home next to a private golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla.
2. During college, Aaron was a door-to-door knife salesman before teaching Murgio and fraternity brothers the more lucrative Google ad business.
According to Bloomberg, Murgio wrote on a personal web page that he’d “started working for major corporations. Was flown all over the world, taken out to dinners all day and night … lots of fun.”
3. Aaron dropped out of university in 2005, and moved to Miami to start businesses in Palmetto Bay.
The businesses ranged from air purifiers to an Internet marketing firm. But in 2011, he got involved in a stock fraud scheme, according to his indictment, Bloomberg reported.
Aaron moved to Israel later, and in 2014 married a tax lawyer he’d met in the country.
4. Murgio said he made $US800,000 in college.
Some of the capital may have come from a job building vacation-rental websites. Murgio used it to open a restaurant and nightclub after graduation in 2007.
5. Murgio went bankrupt in 2012, citing $US545,000 in debt. Murgio also had a run-in with the law in early 2013.
He was charged with stealing $US111,000 in unreported sales taxes. But Murgio said it was a paperwork mistake, and charges were dropped once he paid the government.
Screen grab CCTV Kremlin
6. Murgio and Aaron met often in Russia, and Murgio went to Moscow at least half-a-dozen times starting in 2014 — even though they kept limited contact after Aaron moved to Israel post-graduation.
The FBI suspects the two are linked to elite Russian hackers who did the brunt of the work in the JPMorgan Hack. According to Bloomberg, court documents show Murgio also worked with Russian payment processors while there.
7. They were living it up in Russia.
Two weeks before they were charged, Aaron posted a photo of the two of them in Moscow. Murgio also posted photos of himself living the high life, sipping vodka and smoking a hookah in a club. “Doesn’t get better,” Murgio wrote in one caption. “If it wasn’t 25 degrees, I wouldn’t leave.”
Read the full Bloomberg article here.