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21 November 2016, 15:28
A man from South Wales has been sentenced after paying computer hackers to stop negative reviews of his company.
35 year old James Frazer-Mann from Barry admitted paying hackers int he US to take down a website where people had made critical posts about his pay day loans company "Elite Loans".
Cardiff Crown Court heard he paid £2,000 to hackers in the USA to mount cyber attacks against the Consumer Action Group website.
But an FBI investigation into online fraud led to US authorities tipping off police across the Atlantic - and eventually to Frazer-Mann's arrest in Britain.
James Davies, prosecuting, told Cardiff Crown Court: "He offered a hacker $100 to take a consumer website down.
"He also made payments to another to orchestrate attacks against his competitors.
"The effects of such attacks are significant as the companies are so reliant on their websites to generate business."
One online comment read:"These companies are preying on people already in a vulnerable position and making life harder, they should be shut down!!!"
The court was told Frazer-Mann tracked down cyber criminals on an online hacking forum.
He paid them to bombard rival payday loan websites with "Distributed Denial of Service" attacks, which stopped them from being able to run properly. The court also heard he'd paid for a blog to be shut down.
The businessman's home in Barry was raided and his computer equipment was seized.
Mr Davies said: "He claims his company had initially been targeted by other companies. It's an area of business which is highly competitive and some use unethical practices.
"He said he lost £1,000 a day when his website was targeted."
He pleaded guilty to five counts of encouraging or the commission of offences which prevent access to programme of documents held in a computer.
The offences took place between January 2013 and February 2015.
Ben Douglas-Jones, defending Frazer-Mann, said the consumer site had detailed the married businessman's personal information, and encouraged users to contact him.
Mr Douglas-Jones added: "There's a low risk of him committing further offences of this nature. He's now working as a carpet cleaner."
Recorder of Cardiff Judge Eleri Rees said: "Over a period of two years you resorted through revenge to try and disrupt websites.
"You were prepared to spend quite considerable amounts of money to achieve this end."
Frazer-Mann, of Colcot, Barry, was sentenced to four months on prison, suspended for 12 months.
He was ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work and told to pay £530 in costs and victim surcharges.
Detective Inspector Paul Peters from Tarian Regional Cybercrime Unit said: “Our mission is to make the people of southern Wales safe.
"Criminal activity conducted online can have far reaching effects on businesses and individuals across the world.. This case illustrates our commitment to identify and bring to justice those who commit offences online.”