Cybercrime has become a multibillion dollar business, with criminals from every corner of the globe hacking into computer systems to steal personal and financial information, use Internet sites to launder money from illegal enterprises and engage in a wide range of fraudulent activity.
Identifying, tracking down and bringing these criminals to justice is no easy task. It requires skilled investigators with knowledge of cyberspace and the ability to untangle complex financial schemes involving key players who are cloaked in anonymity and located all over the world.
Tate Jarrow, a 33-year-old Secret Service special agent, fits the bill of a super cyber sleuth, having played a pivotal role in two of the U.S. government’s biggest cybercrime cases.
“Tate is one of the preeminent cyber investigators in the federal government,” said Scott Sarafian, a Secret Service assistant to the special agent in charge.
“He understands the dark web and how money moves,” Sarafian said, referring to publicly visible websites that mask server IP addresses, making it difficult to figure out who hosts them and where.
Another Secret Service colleague, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Pleasant, said Jarrow is “very unassuming and very humble, but once you turn him loose, he is a pit bull. He has the ability to step into cases, dig deep and track things down quickly.”
Working with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, Jarrow helped collect evidence against individuals recently indicted for hacking into the computer systems of several large U.S. financial institutions, U.S. brokerage firms, a major news publication and other companies.
Prosecutors said the breaches exposed the personal information belonging to more than 100 million people. More than 80 million of those stolen files came from customers at JPMorgan Chase, according to numerous news accounts. This breach represented the largest single theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history, according to federal prosecutors.
Three individuals were indicted in 2015 for using the stolen data, among other charges, to orchestrate a widespread stock manipulation scheme, which involved artificially raising the value of low-volume stocks and then selling them at inflated prices by marketing to customers of the victim financial institutions. The email addresses and information about the individuals taken from the financial institutions were used in the stock marketing scheme.
The indictments also accused the defendants of running an illegal online casino, laundering money through numerous entities around the world and setting up an illegal digital currency trading operation, earning more than $100 million from their illegal enterprises. Two others were indicted for operating a related illegal digital currency exchange firm.
Jarrow collaborated with forensic investigators and the FBI to examine the compromised computers and servers, identify how the cyberattack occurred and help identify numerous IP and email addresses used in the worldwide schemes. He followed hundreds of leads, obtained authorization to examine servers domestically and overseas, traced numerous illicit business dealings and followed the flow of tens of millions of dollars.
“Tate was our lead investigative agent in this case,” Pleasant said. “He worked with the company’s investigative unit and the FBI to track down how the system was breached and who was responsible. It was good old-fashioned gumshoe work.”
In a second significant case, Jarrow played a leading role identifying and bringing to justice those responsible for operating a major money-transmitting service used by cybercriminals around the world, known as Liberty Reserve. Five defendants have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.
This illegal financial services business, operating in Costa Rica and other countries, amassed, distributed, stored and laundered proceeds from investment fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft and computer hacking. Before it was shut down in May 2013, it had more than five million user accounts worldwide, including more than 600,000 associated with people in the United States. Liberty Reserve laundered more than $250 million in criminal proceeds.
Deputy Special Agent in Charge Stephen Perazzo of the Secret Service said Jarrow was instrumental in locating and retrieving Liberty Reserve computer servers from more than a dozen countries, analyzing voluminous amounts of data, tracing communications that included hundreds of thousands of emails, and following the extensive money trail.
“Tate was involved in virtually every facet of the case,” Perazzo said.
Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Stuart Tyron said Jarrow has shown a unique ability to “pull many pieces of a case together” and to “work with law enforcement partners around the world.”
“He has demonstrated that U.S. law enforcement has the ability to consistently go outside U.S. borders to investigate cybercrimes and bring people to justice,” Tyron said. “We see Tate as being on the cutting edge of our investigative mission.”
For his part, Jarrow said he finds it rewarding to be part of shutting down large criminal organizations. “These cyber criminals are victimizing millions of people and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars, and everybody is paying for that,” Jarrow said. “It is important to hold these people accountable.”