U.S. citizen accused of helping North Korean IT workers infiltrate U.S. companies

Washington — An Arizona woman has been accused of conspiring with people tied to the North Korean government to illegally procure remote telework posts with U.S. companies, federal prosecutors said Thursday. 

Christina Chapman allegedly worked with North Korean IT workers Jiho Han, Chunji Jin, Haoran Xu and others as part of a scheme to steal the identities of U.S. citizens and gain remote employment at American corporations using those false identities, charging documents said. 

In all, Chapman and her co-conspirators allegedly used the identities of more than 60 individuals who lived in the U.S. to generate nearly $7 million for the North Korean government from more than 300 U.S. companies. 

Prosecutors said some of the affected companies were Fortune 500 corporations, including a major TV network, a defense company and a car maker. 

Investigators alleged Chapman even used laptop computers that were issued to her co-conspirators under false pretenses to make it appear as though they were actually located within the U.S. and later facilitated the laundering of their salaries. The government accused her of operating a “laptop farm” in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to get some of the workers hired by U.S. government agencies. 

Han, Jin and Xu are tied to North Koreans Munitions Industry Department, according to a State Department memo offering $5 million for information leading to the disruption of the scheme. The department deals with ballistic missile and weapons production. 

They are accused of working with Chapman in an effort to launder the illicit money back into North Korea. 

Chapman was arrested in Phoenix on Thursday. 

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

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