ZIFFPAGE TITLEGeekfather, or College Student

By Deborah Gage Print this article Print

Crime is now organized on the Internet. Operating in the anonymity of cyberspace, the Shadowcrew and Web mobs like it threaten the trust companies have spent years trying to build with customers, online.

?"> Geekfather, or College Student?

Mantovani's arraignment was held in U.S. District Court in Newark on Feb. 14. A rainy Valentine's Day. A day Americans associated with romance—and an infamous mob hit in Chicago.

Raindrops still on his gray suit, Mantovani entered courtroom 4B. The 22-year-old with short, slightly ruffled hair and a baby face stood as the judge asked him to enter a plea. His lawyer, Giannetta, firmly responded, "Not guilty."

At the time of his arrest, Mantovani was attending Scottsdale Community College in Arizona. While out on bail, he is living with his mother in New York. He hopes to get a job in construction.

"He's very nice," Giannetta says of Mantovani, "a kid from a middle-class environment, never involved with crime, and now he's facing a federal indictment. It's traumatic for the family, and for him."

While Giannetta refers to Mantovani by his first name and says he knows of no conspiracy to trade in credit card information, the Secret Service refers to him by computer nicknames they say he used, including Deck, DeckerdIsMissin and ThnkYouPleaseDie.

To the Secret Service, this college kid in a crisply pressed suit was a leader of one of the largest and best-organized gangs trafficking in stolen credit and debit card numbers and counterfeit identity documents.

Working from court documents that include the criminal complaint and an indictment against 19 Shadowcrew members on file in U.S. District Court in Newark, interviews with government investigators and prosecutors, and assistance from computer security experts such as Pescatore and another former Secret Service agent, John Frazzini, who now runs his own corporate security company, Baseline pieced together a picture of how the Shadowcrew organized itself, how it got rolling and how law enforcers and security experts hope to stop Web mobs like it.

According to the complaint, a handful of members, including Mantovani and Appleyard, were at the top of the organization. Appleyard liked to go by the military-sounding moniker Black Ops. Functionally, they were known as administrators.

This article was originally published on 2005-03-07
Senior Writer
Based in Silicon Valley, Debbie was a founding member of Ziff Davis Media's Sm@rt Partner, where she developed investigative projects and wrote a column on start-ups. She has covered the high-tech industry since 1994 and has also worked for Minnesota Public Radio, covering state politics. She has written freelance op-ed pieces on public education for the San Jose Mercury News, and has also won several national awards for her work co-producing a documentary. She has a B.A. from Minnesota State University.

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