HOW CRIMINALS MANAGE THEIR INTERNET PROFILE
I have written a number of articles about how individuals that you would not want to meet on a dark street are manipulating the information about them on the the Internet through the use of "reputation management" companies. You may have seen some of their ads. Whilst they may provide a needed service to companies who are maliciously targeted by activists or radicals, they are also helping criminals hide the sordid truth about their misdeeds.
This is done by placing a large number of webpages on the Internet which will, due to the emphasis on relevance and up-to-date nature of the posting, push negative information to the rear of a multi-page search engine result. Since most individuals searching for information on a target often avoid the low relevancy results at the end, it greatly decreases the chances that they will struggle though to the end, and find that critical arrest, indictment, conviction, or civil judgment which is critical to a determination that the target is high-risk.
I think an illustration is called for, I will detail one that will show you how reputation management works, and how to evade its subtle tricks in your due diligence investigations.
Long-time readers of my work, whether they have read me when I wrote for Complinet, or World-Check, or as a guest journalist on several Latin-American websites, may recall that I have, in the past, covered the activities of Ramiro Francisco Helmeyer Quevedo, a Venezuelan career criminal. For those who are not familiar with this individual, here's his record.
(1) Helmeyer was engaged in trafficking narcotics to Canada, and he is still a wanted man there.
(2) Helmeyer was charged with a Federal weapons violation in the United States,* and after he fled the jurisdiction, he was also charged with escape.** Though he is known to have entered the United States recently***, it is assumed that he is using a bogus passport for that purpose.
(3) Helmeyer murdered a competitor in the narcotics trade, by throwing him out of an airplane at high altitude. He was sentenced to thirty (30) years' imprisonment for that crime, but later released by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias, and thereafter employed as a senior inspector at that country's secret police, the National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services, a/k/a DISIP, now known as SEBIN.
(4) Helmeyer's co-defendant in the murder, (and inseparable associate) Walter Alexander "Alex" Del Nogal, (also convicted) trafficked cocaine into Italy, for the Mafia , with Helmeyer. Del Nogal, who once escaped from a Swiss prison, where he had been confined on a drug charge, was later arrested in Milan on additional drug charges.
(5) Whilst with DISIP, Helmeyer is believed to have looted millions of dollars of public funds from PdVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company.
(6) Helmeyer exploded six bombs in downtown Caracas in 1992, as a terrorist act, designed to cause chaos in the local banking structure. He framed Venezuela's National Drug Czar, Thor Halvorssen Hellum, for those crimes, and his associates were responsible for imprisoning and torturing Halvorssen, who was later absolved of guilt and released.
(7) Helmeyer and Del Nogal ran the "SuitecaseGate" bulk cash smuggling pipeline, whereby dollars were smuggled into Argentina, including a $790,500 illegal presidential campaign contribution. Criminal charges were later brought against some of the conspirators in Miami.
(7) Helmeyer is a close associate of high-ranking Venezuelan PEPs who have been sanctioned by the United States, and appear on the OFAC list, for narcotics trafficking and/or terrorist financial support activities. He is married to the Venezuelan actress, Mari Carmen Rigueiro .
(8) He is generally regarded as one of the most dangerous men in Venezuela, due to his prior activities, and his connections at the highest-levels of power in the Government of Venezuela.
He is attempting to clean up his criminal image on the Internet, and reputation management assistance has accomplished this by the following:
(A) Posting multiple websites, with .net, .org, .biz, .info Internet suffixes, under his full name.
(B) Creating pages on all the social networking sites ( e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) in English and in Spanish.
(C) Creating pages on business networking sites ( e.g. Linked-In).
(D) Creating a national & international news page. ( Why a criminal would think that readers would watch this is beyond me, but it is merely to clog the Internet with favourable copy).
(E) Building and posting sports pages.
(F) Photo pages.
(G) Pictorial pages of scantily-dressed females. ( is that supposed to distract Enhanced Due Diligence searchers, I wonder ?).
(H) All sorts of Internet garbage, all designed solely to choke the 'Net.
How to evade these tactics:
(1) Always search for MORE than just the name of the target. That will pull you past many of the Internet postings. Your search should specify the occupation, the city/country of the target, his business name, anything that narrows the search.
(2) If there are certain fraudulent or criminal acts that are common to someone in the target's occupation, country of origin, or principal activity, add that to your name search. The object is to zero in on any terms which will focus the search results.
(3) Look for other terms that you can search for, other than the target's name, like all companies linked to him, his real estate, etc.
(4) Avoid search engines altogether; go to online public records databases, court databases, license and permit databases.
Remember, any routine Internet search may show negative results, due to a carefully crafted reputation management programme. Always look further, and use your imagination, all to avoid the pitfalls of Internet management manipulation.
* United States vs. Helmeyer, Case No.: 82-cr-00220 (ND GA).
** United States vs. Helmeyer, Case No.: 82-cr-00355 (ND GA).
***Is Wanted Terrorist Walking the Streets of Miami this Week ?