Andrew Rakhshan certainly made an impression with his credit-card fraud spree, at one point leading police — including an RCMP helicopter — on a high-speed boat chase off the British Columbia coast.
Rakhshan was convicted five years ago of buying several high-end automobiles and a $140,000 yacht with bogus cards — then masquerading as a police officer to gather information on the case against him.
The 32-year-old American was deported after serving 18 months in a Canadian prison. But he allegedly never forgot the bad press he earned here.
The FBI in Seattle arrested Rakhshan on Friday in a bizarre computer-hacking case, accusing him of extortion and other offences involving a U.S. legal-documents website, the CBC, Postmedia’s Canada.com and other news outlets that had posed material about his crimes.
In a bid to get the companies to remove articles and case reports about him from the internet, he launched “denial of service” attacks on their sites, offered cash and threatened employees of the news organizations and their families, U.S. authorities allege.
“I cannot afford to be haunted and followed by this ordeal wherever I go in the world,” Rakhshan wrote in an email to the Canadian branch of Metro News, according to U.S. court documents. “If you do not comply with my demand, Metronews.ca will be hit with a massive cyber attack … If cyber attacks (DDOS) does not change your mind, then I will send death/bomb threats to Metro offices across Canada and to your employees.”
The U.S. attorney in Dallas has so far charged Rakhshan just with carrying out a denial-of-service attack on Leagle.com, an aggregator of case reports based in Texas.
But evidence points to other offences, including extortion, conspiracy and issuing threats, says the charging “complaint” filed in court. The investigation is ongoing, it says.
Kyana Givens, the public defender’s office lawyer representing Rakhshan, declined to comment.
The idea of being able to cleanse the internet of unflattering information — sometimes called the right to be forgotten — has actually been widely debated, with some jurisdictions requiring Google to consider applications for removing links.
But U.S. authorities allege that Rakhshan took the notion much further, using threats, attacks and money to try to eliminate any online trace of his past crimes.
The man also known as Kamyar Jahanrakhshan immigrated with his family from Iran to the U.S. in 1991 and became an American citizen. But a few years later they moved to Canada, with a 2012 Canadian court ruling saying his mother, a travel agent, lived in Vancouver and his father in Toronto.
Rakhshan was initially arrested in 2009 after the boat chase, according to the Vancouver Province. A CBC report suggested the pursuit also involved a bailiff hired by an aggrieved car dealership.
He eventually was convicted of 40 fraud-related charges over a scheme that saw him create counterfeit credit cards linked to banks in Australia, Egypt, Brazil, France, the U.K., and other countries.
Rakhshan used them to buy seven luxury cars — including BMWs, Mercedes Benzes, a Lexus and Cadillac — and a Sundancer boat, charging close to $500,000.
He was also found guilty of obstructing justice and impersonating a police officer, after contacting some of the banks and posing as a Canadian detective to obtain information related to his case.
U.S. prosecutors charge that he started targeting news sites in Canada and Australia — including the Sydney Morning Herald — shortly after his deportation in 2014. He would sometimes send them cash payments of up to $500, then threaten or carry out cyber attacks designed to stop sites from properly functioning, it’s alleged.
“I have been deported from Canada, and am trying to build a new life half a world away, but this nasty article of yours is taunting me every day,” he wrote to the CBC in 2015.
The court ruling on Leagle.com he tried to have removed concerned a civil suit filed by Rakhshan. He had applied to recover five cars seized from him in 2003 by a municipality in Washington State, those vehicles also allegedly obtained by fraud.
The court refused his request, noting “a thief has no right to possess stolen property.”