US Companies Inadvertently Gave $7M to North Korea

American charged in fraud scheme that saw North Koreans pose as remote US workers
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 21, 2024 10:05 AM CDT
US Companies Inadvertently Gave $7M to North Korea
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, supervises a test firing of a new multiple rocket launch system at an undisclosed place in North Korea on May 10.   (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Citizens of North Korea are snagging remote jobs with US companies and funneling earnings into their country's missile program, federal authorities said Thursday in announcing fraud charges against a US woman accused of facilitating such a scheme. Christina Chapman, 49, of Litchfield Park, Arizona, is among five people facing charges of wire fraud, identity theft, and money laundering. Chapman, a Ukrainian man, and three unidentified foreign nationals allegedly stole the identities of more than 60 US citizens and handed details to North Korean individuals who posed as remote IT workers as part of a scheme that generated nearly $7 million for the government department that oversees production of North Korea's weapons, Axios reports.

The Ukrainian national, 27-year-old Oleksandr Didenko, allegedly created accounts on US-based job search platforms, then sold them to people he believed were North Korean workers. Between 2020 and 2023, workers "using the stolen, false, or borrowed identities of US nationals" infiltrated more than 300 US companies, including a "top five" TV network, a "premier" Silicon Valley tech company, an aerospace manufacturer, and an "iconic" car manufacturer, per ABC News and CNN. Authorities say some companies were purposefully targeted by the workers, who were linked to North Korea's Munitions Industry Department. Workers also "attempted to gain employment and access to information at two different US government agencies" but were "discovered and thwarted," prosecutors say.

Workers allegedly accessed computers from a laptop farm Chapman operated so as to appear having a US-based IP address. Chapman, who allegedly charged a monthly fee for her services, also "helped launder the proceeds from the scheme by receiving, processing, and distributing paychecks from the US firms to these IT workers," according to the State Department. The scheme generated at least $6.8 million in revenue, Axios reports. Chapman, arrested Wednesday, faces nine counts, including conspiracy to defraud the US, per CNN. US authorities are seeking Didenko's extradition from Poland. They're also offering a reward of up to $5 million for information on the three other alleged co-conspirators and a fourth unindicted co-conspirator. (More North Korea stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.