Arizona woman accused of helping North Koreans get remote IT jobs at 300 companies

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An Arizona woman has been accused of helping generate millions of dollars for North Korea’s ballistic missile program by helping citizens of that country land IT jobs at US-based Fortune 500 companies.

Christina Marie Chapman, 49, of Litchfield Park, Arizona, raised $6.8 million in the scheme, federal prosecutors said in an indictment unsealed Thursday. Chapman allegedly funneled the money to North Korea’s Munitions Industry Department, which is involved in key aspects of North Korea’s weapons program, including its development of ballistic missiles.

Part of the alleged scheme involved Chapman and co-conspirators compromising the identities of more than 60 people living in the US and using their personal information to get North Koreans IT jobs across more than 300 US companies.

In the indictment, prosecutors wrote:

The conspiracy perpetrated a staggering fraud on a multitude of industries, at the expense of generally unknowing US companies and persons. It impacted more than 300 US companies, compromised more than 60 identities of US persons, caused false information to be conveyed to DHS on more than 100 occasions, created false tax liabilities for more than 35 US persons, and resulted in at least $6.8 million of revenue to be generated for the overseas IT workers. The overseas IT workers worked at blue-chip US companies, including a top-5 national television network and media company, a premier Silicon Valley technology company, an aerospace and defense manufacturer, an iconic American car manufacturer, a high-end retail chain, and one of the most recognizable media and entertainment companies in the world, all of which were Fortune 500 companies.

As another part of the alleged conspiracy, Chapman operated a “laptop farm” at one of her residences to give the employers the impression the North Korean IT staffers were working from within the US; the laptops were issued by the employers. By using proxies and VPNs, the overseas workers appeared to be connecting from US-based IP addresses. Chapman also received employees’ paychecks at her home, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutors said that Chapman and three North Korean IT workers—using the aliases of Jiho Han, Chunji Jin, Haoran Xu, and others—had been working since at least 2020 to plan a remote-work scheme. In March of that year, prosecutors said, an individual messaged Chapman on LinkedIn and invited her to “be the US face” of their company. From August to November of 2022, the North Korean IT workers allegedly amassed guides and other information online designed to coach North Koreans on how to write effective cover letters and résumés and falsify US Permanent Resident Cards.

Under the alleged scheme, the foreign workers developed “fictitious personas and online profiles to match the job requirements” and submitted fake documents to the Homeland Security Department as part of an employment eligibility check. Chapman also allegedly discussed with co-conspirators about transferring the money earned from their work.

“The charges in this case should be a wakeup call for American companies and government agencies that employ remote IT workers,” Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said. “These crimes benefited the North Korean government, giving it a revenue stream and, in some instances, proprietary information stolen by the co-conspirators.”

The indictment came alongside a criminal complaint charging a Ukrainian man with carrying out a similar multiyear scheme. Oleksandr Didenko, 27, of Kyiv, Ukraine, allegedly helped individuals in North Korea “market” themselves as remote IT workers.

Chapman was arrested Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately known when she or Didenko were scheduled to make their first appearance in court. If convicted, Chapman faces 97.5 years in prison, and Didenko faces up to 67.5 years.

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