- Associated Press - Friday, February 12, 2016

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - An Iranian national accused of selling stolen financial information was arrested after flying to New York upon winning a lottery that allowed him to obtain a U.S. permanent resident visa, federal officials say.

A federal agent’s affidavit said 30-year-old Milad Rezaei Kalantari pleaded not guilty to a 16-count indictment Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, The Sun Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1QZBrx0).

Kalantari is accused in the affidavit of operating websites that sell stolen financial information, including personal data from thousands of customers at three southern Mississippi banks.

Federal agents investigating Kalantari said they learned in December that he had won the United States Diversified State Lottery - also known as “the green card lottery” - and would be flying to the U.S. The free lottery allows up to 50,000 qualified immigrants a year to receive a permanent resident visa through a diversity program.

Later that month, authorities arrested Kalantari on a charge of bank fraud upon his arrival at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Kalantari came under investigation in a probe of the Yahoo Boys, a West African criminal organization, a Homeland Security Investigations agent in Gulfport said in an affidavit. The Yahoo Boys use international hackers and underground Iranian, Russian and Vietnamese groups to conduct financial fraud schemes, the agent said.

An undercover agent bought stolen data from one of Kalantari’s members-only websites three times in December and received the stolen card information of 68 Mississippians, the indictment said.

Kalantari is being held without bond and is set for trial on a court calendar that starts April 4. It is unclear whether he has an attorney.

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Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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