- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2018

Max Ray Vision, an incarcerated computer hacker serving a record-setting prison sentence in federal custody, has been hit with new charges connected to an elaborate ploy to smuggle contraband into a Louisiana correctional facility.

Previously known as Max Ray Butler and by his hacker alias, “Iceman,” Vision has been charged in a nine-count indictment filed by federal prosecutors that places him at the center of a scheme that allegedly involved using a smuggled cellphone, stolen banking data and a consumer-grade drone to make an airdrop into prison, The Daily Beast first reported Friday.

Vision, 46, pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment last month in Lake Charles, Louisiana, according to his case docket. A hearing in his case has been set for Dec. 20.

Prosecutors alleged in the indictment that Vision used smuggled a T-Mobile “My-Touch” cellphone while incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Center in Oakdale, Louisiana, to access the internet and obtain stolen debit card numbers.

“Using MoneyGram and Western Union websites, and their respective mobile applications,” a grand jury charged in the indictment, “Butler wired funds from the bank accounts associated with the stolen debit card numbers to other inmates at Oakdale FCC,” including five co-defendants also charged in the indictment.

He later instructed his fellow inmates to transfer the funds obtained from the stolen debit cards to a former cellmate who had been released in May 2015, according to the indictment.

Unidentified in court documents but named by The Daily Beast as Jason Dane Tidwell, 38, Vision’s former cellmate allegedly used the stolen funds to purchase an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, that was then used in April 2016 to attempt to smuggle another cellphone and other unspecified contraband into prison, according to the indictment.

Jailers learned about the airdrop the following day, and another inmate, Phillip Tyler Hammons, confessed and blamed the hacker for “planning the entire operation,” prison officials wrote in a report cited by The Daily Beast.

“According to Hammons, Butler used people from the outside of the institution to introduce contraband on to the grounds of the institution.”

Vision has been charged with five counts of wire fraud, one count of possessing stolen credit card numbers, one count of possessing contraband in prison and two related counts of conspiracy.

He allegedly began using the smuggled Android phone in Oct. 2014, according to the indictment, roughly 18 months before the airdrop.

“The cell phone recovered by SIS staff revealed the user was a highly skilled person capable to [sic] access secure apps and coordinate the use of stolen credit card information with the use of an aircraft drone to introduce contraband into the institution,” the Bureau of Prisons concluded in a report cited by The Daily Beast. “The potential for greater crimes [sic] opportunities are obvious, i.e. escape, introduction of firearms, etc.”

“Although [Vision] was only equipped with a smartphone, he proved that he is more than capable to disrupt and circumvent the security of the institution and present a clear danger to the community in general,” said the report.

An attorney representing Vision in the case did not immediately return a request for comment.

“We continue to proactively research, rigorously evaluate, and effectively deploy proven security technologies to detect, interdict, and mitigate dangerous contraband, including UAVs,” the BOP told The Daily Beast in a statement.

Vision was previously arrested in San Francisco in 2007 in connection with a U.S. Secret Service investigation that resulted in a 13-year prison sentence – “the longest to date in the United States for a computer hacker,” the Department of Justice noted in a statement touting the punishment in 2010. Convicted computer hackers Albert Gonzales and Roman Seleznev have subsequently received sentenced of 20- and 27-years in federal prison, respectively.

He legally changed his name from Butler shortly before his arrest, The Daily Beast reported at the time.

Vision had pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges brought in relation to his role in operating CardersMarket, an online forum that facilitated the sale of stolen credit card numbers. Searches of computers seized following his arrest in 2007 recovered more than 1.8 million stolen credit card numbers, prosecutors said previously.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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