By Mahita Gajanan
February 16, 2018

In an indictment brought Friday by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, PayPal has become the latest tech company pulled into the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The indictment charges thirteen Russians and three Russian companies with a plot to interfere in the election using social media propaganda aimed at helping Republican nominee Donald Trump and hurt the Democratic Hillary Clinton.

And while it was previously known that Russian operatives had been accused of spreading propaganda on Facebook and Twitter by stealing identities of Americans, the special counsel now says they also used PayPal accounts to fund their efforts. Federal prosecutors allege that the PayPal accounts were opened with fake identities to get past the online payment company’s security requirements.

A spokesperson for PayPal told Bloomberg that the company is “intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use of our services” and working with law enforcement to stop illegal activity.

According to the indictment, the operatives illegally took social security numbers and birth dates of Americans without their knowledge and created fake means of identification, including false driver’s licenses, which allowed them to open and maintain PayPal accounts. Behind the stolen identities, the operatives posted on various social media accounts and used their PayPal accounts to pay for political advertisements.

“Defendants and their co-conspirators also obtained, and attempted to obtain, false identification documents to use as proof of identity in connection with maintaining accounts and purchasing advertisements on social media sites,” the indictment says.

“PayPal is intensely focused on combatting and preventing the illicit use of our services,” the company said in a statement to Fortune. “We work closely with law enforcement, and did so in this matter, to identify, investigate and stop improper or potentially illegal activity.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from Paypal.

 

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