In a recent ruling, the Federal Court of Cassation affirmed a conviction for internet fraud on the basis of indirect evidence.
In the case, the victim reported unauthorized wire transfers from his bank account, made from the bank´s online home banking service. Specifically, the complainant objected to a AR$ 3,000 transfer to a person he had never met or heard of before.
A computer engineering student was identified as the fraudster. As per the investigator´s reconstruction of the facts, the defendant relied on a phishing scam and obtained the victim´s information through an e-mail that replicated logos, layout and general tone of the actual correspondence sent out by the bank in question.
The acting Oral Tribunal convicted the defendant on counts of internet fraud (Section 173.16of the Criminal Code) and gave a one year suspended sentence.
The defendant filed for appeal before the Court of Cassation, arguing that his alleged participation in the scam was not demonstrated pursuant to applicable criminal law standards. Specifically, the defense pointed towards the fact that the phishing e-mail was traced back to an IP address in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Federal Court of Cassation upheld the conviction and sentence, on the grounds that the evidence was enough to establish guilt under applicable standards. Regarding the defendant´s argument, the Court stated that “…anyone with basic computer skills may operate a foreign IP address from Argentina”. Moreover, the Court gave special consideration to a report submitted by the defendant´s email server, indicating that his e-mail account was frequently associated to foreign based IP addresses.
The case is relevant in the context of cybercrime, where obtaining direct evidence is not always possible.