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Richard Pinedo’s Six Month Sentence as Inglorious End to Mueller Probe
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Richard Pinedo’s Six Month Sentence as Inglorious End to Mueller Probe

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 16, 2018

Last Wednesday, October 10, Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court in Washington sentenced Richard Pinedo, 28, of Santa Paula, CA. According to the DOJ’s Special Counsel's office website, Pinedo was sentenced to serve six months in prison for selling private citizens’ bank account numbers, followed by six months of home confinement, and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.” Pinedo will voluntarily turn himself in at a prison in the Central District of California at a later time. He will then serve 24 months of supervised release after he finishes his sentence. He will pay no fine, but in addition to his jail term will pay for computer monitoring that tracks if he attempts to commit other online crimes.

This seems to be the last page of the 16-month investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which has already cost taxpayers nearly $17 million.

Pinedo testified before a federal grand jury in DC, which approved the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 business entities (Concord Management and Consulting, Internet Research Agency and Concord Catering).

“For more than three years, beginning in 2014 and continuing through December 2017, Mr. Pinedo sold hundreds of real persons’ bank account numbers to anonymous customers on the internet,” said in Government’s sentencing memorandum.

Richard Pinedo appeared in the U.S. District Courthouse with his dark hair slicked back and wearing a black suit, black dress shirt, purple tie, and hoop earrings. He was accompanied by his defense lawyer Jeremy Lessem. In court, Pinedo read quickly from a written statement where he admitted his crime and expressed remorse for his actions.

"I take full responsibility for what I've done," he told the court Wednesday. "I've tried to do everything possible to help in this investigation."

Pinedo first intersected with the Mueller probe in December 2017, when he spoke to the FBI at his family's home in California without consulting with an attorney and admitted to owning the online account sales website “Auction Essistance”.

Pinedo also helped identify others U.S. citizens involved in online identity fraud. Prosecutor Rush Atkinson said in court that the special counsel's office did not pursue investigations of or prosecute those people “because their mandate is narrowly focused on Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.”

Richard Pinedo appeared unemotional throughout the hearing, even as Friedrich gave him his sentence.

"You did knowingly commit identity fraud and opened the door" to foreigners breaching American's online security, Judge Dabney Friedrich told Pinedo Wednesday, adding, "I think you deserve credit for your cooperation."

According to Pinedo’s Statement of Offense, “after acquiring bank account numbers from PINEDO, Users linked the bank account numbers to their accounts with Company 1 as if they were the real owners of the bank accounts.”

Every bank requires two key pieces of information to identify customers: the routing number and the account number. U.S. bank account numbers consist of a transit number and an account number.

Account numbers are a lot like a customer ID, or fingerprint, that’s specific to each account holder. Similarly, routing numbers identify each banking institution with a unique numerical ID. Routing and account numbers are assigned to indicate exactly where transactional funds are coming from and going to. Anytime you make an electronic funds transfer, for instance, both the routing and account numbers must be provided to the relevant financial institutions.

For making a payment online, a buyer needs to provide their checking account routing number, referred to as an RTN, or routing transit number. A bank routing number is a code that's based on the location where the account was opened. The account number works in conjunction with the routing number. While the latter identifies the name of the financial institution, the account number–usually between eight and ten digits – identifies the individual account.

As we can see, Pinedo testified under oath that for years he was selling hundreds of real persons’ bank account numbers to anonymous customers, helping them to establish verified PayPal accounts.

The U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al (1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia) indictment reads:

“In or around 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also used, possessed, and transferred, without lawful authority, the social security numbers and dates of birth of real U.S. persons without those persons’ knowledge or consent. Using these means of identification, Defendants and their co-conspirators opened accounts at PayPal, a digital payment service provider; created false means of identification, including fake driver’s licenses; and posted on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts using the identities of these U.S. victims. Defendants and their co-conspirators also obtained, and attempted to obtain, false identification documents [sic!] to use as proof of identity in connection with maintaining accounts and purchasing advertisements on social media sites.”

The indictment also claims, that “Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.” […] The political advertisements included the following: ‘I say no to Hillary Clinton / I say no to manipulation,’ “JOIN our #HillaryClintonForPrison2016,’ ‘Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is.’”

According to the indictment, some PayPal accounts were used to purchase advertisements on Facebook promoting ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts.

On page 25 of the indictment we read: “On or about June 1, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators created and purchased Facebook advertisements for their ‘March for Trump’ rally.”

However in the “Excerpt of Advertisement” list, the date June 1, 2016 is not found. The closest ones in the list are May 24, 2016 and June 7, 2016.

Here is an example of another lie: “To pay for the political advertisements, Defendants and their co-conspirators established various Russian bank accounts and credit cards, often registered in the names of fictitious U.S. personas created and used by the ORGANIZATION on social media.”

It just doesn’t work this way. It’s simply impossible to establish Russian bank accounts and register credit cards under the names of fictitious U.S. people. All these actions require your physical presence in the bank office and that you show your original documents; this procedure is accompanied by several security checks.

“Some false identification documents obtained by Defendants and their co-conspirators used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons, including U.S. persons T.W. and J.W. Theft victim’s initials of identity T.W. were linked in the indictment with date August 2, 2016 and such means of identification as social security number and date of birth. Using these means of stolen identification, Defendants and their co-conspirators opened accounts at a federally insured U.S. financial institution (‘Bank 1’), including T.W. account,” public court documents say.

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used, without lawful authority, the social security numbers, home addresses, and birth dates of real U.S. persons to open accounts with PayPal, a digital payments company, including T.W.’s account. Some personas used to register PayPal accounts were the same as the false U.S. personas used in connection with ORGANIZATION’s social media accounts.

The indictment then reads that Defendants and their co-conspirators obtained and used the following fraudulent bank account numbers for the purpose of evading PayPal’s security measures: August 2, 2016, email used to acquire account number: xtimwaltersx@gmail.com.

Using the date of registration August 2, 2016 we can link T.W. with the e-mail address from the indictment xtimwaltersx@gmail.com and his card/bank account number xxxxxx5707. It is reasonable to suggest that the initials T.W. stand for name Tim Walters.

This bank account number was acquired from Pinedo’s “Auction Essistance” website, according to the lawsuit documents.

Reading the indictment we can see how Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and his high-priced legal brain trust is trying to link Pinedo via “Tim Walters” with the Internet Research Agency. But this attempt failed, because Pinedo testified under oath that all of his customers were anonymous, and for buying bank account numbers from his service no social security numbers, home addresses, or birth dates of real U.S. persons were required.

“Mr. Pinedo agreed to testify under oath to the grand jury knowing full well that he was providing evidence connecting Russian nationals with the anonymous accounts they were using to unlawfully effect the 2016 presidential election,” said Pinedo’s attorney Jeremey I. Lessem in his defendant’s position on sentencing.

However, according to the “U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al” indictment, most of the bank account numbers (8 of 14) were acquired from “Auction Essistance” after November 8, 2016, with the last one acquired on March 30, 2017.

If Mr. Pinedo provided any real evidence connecting Russian nationals with the anonymous accounts, it sounds quite non-credible that the alleged 13 Russian personas each made a separate purchase from “Auction Essistance” which helped to identify them.

Isn’t that why the public court documents against the Russians and Pinedo do not reference each other?

Client reviews from “Auction Essistance” show that the bulk purchase of bank account numbers was not a problem and that some of them were “willing to buy up to 1,000 accounts.”

In general, most “Auction Essistance” reviews were negative, and this also shows that Pinedo did not have many loyal customers, ready to buy from him month after month.

“They Scam Me And took my credit card information to make purchases online, i never receive the account that i buy, my account is not accessible, i still have my purchase voucher on my email and still i haven't been able to communicate with anyone, I don't usually use my credit card for online purchase i use it and week later i start receiving message from my credit card provider telling that there are unknown spent in my credit card”, the latest comment from February 14 reads.

Richard Pinedo’s Six Month Sentence as Inglorious End to Mueller Probe

Moreover, in September, researchers from the advocacy group the Campaign for Accountability published their report “How to Sow Discord Using Google and $100 (or 6,800 rubles).” Campaign for Accountability, which has frequently targeted Google with its “transparency project” investigations and has received funding from Google competitor Oracle, posed themselves as “Kremlin-linked trolls” and successfully purchased divisive online ads using Google’s ad platform and targeted them toward Americans. In an attempt to trigger Google’s safeguards against such efforts, the researchers purchased the advertisements using the name and identifying details of the Internet Research Agency which has been the subject of numerous congressional hearings.

The CfA’s findings are worth far more than the 16 months of Mueller’s team’s work. According to the CfA report, they spent just $35 on its test ads, which generated more than 20,000 impressions and some 200 click-throughs.

The ad campaign, which cost just over $6, drove 5,787 impressions and 56 clicks to a YouTube video with Russian troll memes. The ad also appeared on YouTube channels for CBS This Morning, CNN, HuffPost, and Essence.

To execute the ad buys, researchers from the Campaign for Accountability constructed fake online profiles explicitly designed to raise red flags inside Google’s AdWords program. Using burner phones purchased in Panama, the organization created a Russian email account on the popular email client Yandex. Then, using a virtual private network, the CfA changed its IP address to appear as if the account were based in St. Petersburg, the site of the Internet Research Agency. Using the Russian IP address and email account, the organization created a Russian Google AdWords account. In an attempt to trigger Google’s safeguards, the organization registered the billing information to the Internet Research Agency.

What is even more (un)surprising in this story, is that the CfA created two more campaigns that linked Kremlin troll sites with similar success. The first AdWords buy directed users to … USA Really.com. The campaign brought nearly 4,000 impressions, appearing on sites including AnnCoulter.com, the Young Turks, Thom Hartmann, and Dailykos. It also appeared on media sites including The Daily Beast and Britain’s Daily Mail.

Richard Pinedo’s Six Month Sentence as Inglorious End to Mueller Probe

When asked for comment, the CFA declined to provide further information on its funding, noting, "This is only one minor project on which we work." What other major similar projects are the CIA’s branches in the U.S., Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and all across the world working on right now? Is another operation “Russian election meddling?”

Now the truth comes out. All these controversial facts and baseless allegations prove only one thing: The Mueller probe was biased, and full of lies and fear from the very beginning. The global MSM campaign in Mueller’s support was aimed at directing public opinion against the elected U.S. President and building up the “Resistance” opposition inside the White House.

Pinedo said that he's been threatened since pleading guilty. "I've been told that if I ever leave the country, the Russians will poison me," he said.

It would be very interesting to know, who told him that? Is it now legal in the U.S. to put pressure on defendants to make them plead guilty? It’s obvious that Pinedo was threatened with poisoning, but he did not say by whom. Was it someone from Mueller’s team or the FBI?

“You're a bright, capable young man who has a supportive family," Judge Dabney Friedrich told Pinedo. Friedrich encouraged him to complete his college degree in the future, CNN wrote.

After Richard Pinedo finishes his sentence and completes his college degree, U.S.A Really would like to propose that he become our reporter in the U.S.

At U.S.A Really, we believe that Richard Pinedo knows and could tell the truth about what kind of games Special Counsel is playing.

If you have interesting stories for us as well, please submit them for our written contest here.

Author: USA Really