The concept of the ShadowCrew was developed in early 2002 during a chat session between Andrew Mantovani (age 21) and David Appleyard (age 43). It is unknown as to exactly what the circumstances were which led to the pair becoming acquainted.
Mantovani lived in Arizona and attended Scottsdale Community College part-time as a business major. Scott S. Christie, the U.S. attorney involved with prosecuting the case stated it was important (to Mantovani) to be recognized as the spiritual leader of ShadowCrew. Appleyard was a retired mortgage broker who lived in Linwood, New Jersey with his wife, two kids and his sick mother. It was Mantovani, a business major, who came up with the idea of an eBay style business model for ShadowCrew that introduced people in need of stolen data or counterfeit identification to verified sellers of such products.
The ShadowCrew website also contained a number of sub-forums where the latest information about hacking tricks, social engineering, credit card fraud, virus development, scams, and phishing.
ShadowCrew offered a haven for "carders" and hackers to trade, buy, and sell anything from stolen personal information, to hacked credit card numbers and false identification. Shadowcrew emerged from another underground site, counterfeitlibrary.com, in early 2002 and would be followed up by carderplanet.com, a website primarily in the Russian language.
The key players who would become Administrators and Moderators were Deck (Andrew Mantovani), BlackOps (David Appleyard) and a handful of others. Shadowcrew grew to over "4,000 members" (many were "clones" and inactive accounts) worldwide with a small group of members leading the forums. During its early years, the site was hosted overseas, in Hong Kong, but shortly before CumbaJohnny (Albert Gonzalez)'s arrest, the server was in his possession, somewhere in New Jersey.
Aftermath and legacy
The site flourished from the time it opened in 2002 until its demise in late October 2004. Even though the site was booming with criminal activity and all seemed well, the members did not know what was going on behind the scenes. Federal agents received their "big break" when they found CumbaJohnny. Upon Cumba's arrest, he immediately turned and started working with federal agents. From April 2003 to October 2004, Cumba assisted in gathering information and monitoring the site and those who utilized it. He started by taking out many of the Russians who were hacking databases and selling counterfeit credit cards. It was later confirmed that a high-ranking member of the inner-circle of the ShadowCrew, CumbaJohnny (Albert Gonzalez) was a long term police informant who was responsible for teaching the USSS how to monitor, trap and arrest the ShadowCrew.
Many sites appeared after Shadowcrew's demise, one of which was specifically focused on unraveling the mysteries of what actually happened. This site, thegrifters.net, was run by a formally indicted member, David Thomas (a.k.a., El Mariachi) in which he converted his old fraud site to an investigative site. Members of this group uncovered and compiled many pieces of information on the indicted members of Shadowcrew until thegrifters.net was taken down in early 2006.
4,000 members: The Federal indictment says, "Shadowcrew was an international organization of approximately 4,000 members…" The last available page before October 27, 2004 on archive.org shows 2,709 registered members. To people familiar with the ShadowCrew forum, it is well known that many members had multiple user names. Members who were banned from the forum would frequently register with another user name as well. Lastly, the forum was around for over 2 years so there were likely many inactive accounts.
$4 million in losses: this figure was arrived at by multiplying the number of credit cards transferred by $500 each (as per federal law when no monetary figure in a fraud case can be determined). This figure assumes that every single card was valid and had been used.
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- 2004 Federal Sentencing Guidelines Manual - Chapter 2
- Archives of shadowcrew.com
- 'ShadowCrew Indictment
- Business Week "Hacker Hunters" article