US Man ‘Mr. Vacation’ Sentenced to 5 Years for Darknet-Driven Benefits Fraud
A Rhode Island man was sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to wire fraud and identity theft. In December of last year, Courtney Hilaire, 29, admitted to filing 60 fraudulent applications for COVID unemployment relief in “at least eight states,” gathering personal identifiable information (PII) for the applications from various sources on the dark web.
In July 2020, Hilaire and two other men were found sleeping inside a stolen vehicle parked in front of a Rhode Island hotel. In the vehicle, police discovered 18 cell phones and “other electronic devices,” 33 counterfeit credit cards, fake driver’s licenses from multiple states, and data transfer equipment used for credit card magnetic strips. They also found lists of PII for several individuals as well as around $13,000 in “crisp, clean $100 and $50 bills.”
An analysis of the electronic devices confiscated during the arrest yielded templates for the creation of credit cards, driver’s licenses, currency, as well as a list of links to darknet markets selling PII.
Hilaire’s mugshot. Source: TheNewportBuzz.com
In August 2020, Hilaire was arrested again during a traffic stop; this time found to be in possession of “three cell phones, nearly $3,000 in cash, and eight debit cards linked to fraudulently obtained Pennsylvania unemployment benefit accounts.” Forensic analysis of the electronic devices this time found evidence of his involvement in Small Business Administration loan fraud.
Hilaire, who registered an LLC under the name “Mr. Vacation Productions” in March 2021, used stolen Social Security numbers, birth dates and other PII when filing fraudulent applications for COVID relief funds. He received the help of two relatives who are still at large.
An investigation by Homeland Security culminated in Hilaire’s arrest in April 2021, in which agents seized over $47,000 in cash, 11 cell phones, two laptop computers, and “devices used to create fraudulent credit cards.” Investigators determined the total amount of “intended loss” caused by Hilaire to be over $3.3 million, who had been granted $328,700 in fraudulent loans.