Russian convicted in masterminding global online theft ring

MGN Online

SEATTLE (AP) – A federal jury convicted the son of a Russian lawmaker Thursday of hacking into U.S. businesses to steal credit card information and orchestrating an international online theft scheme that netted him millions of dollars.

Jurors deliberated over two days before finding Roman Seleznev guilty of 38 charges, including nine counts of hacking and 10 counts of wire fraud. He could face up to 40 years in prison when he’s sentenced Dec. 2, and he still faces similar charges in federal courts in Nevada and Georgia, his attorney said.

Seleznev hacked into businesses, mostly pizza restaurants in Washington state, and stole millions of credit card numbers that he sold on underground internet forums, authorities said. The thefts led to almost $170 million in credit card losses around the world and made him “one of the most prolific credit card traffickers in history,” prosecutors said.

His lawyer, John Henry Browne, vowed to appeal, saying a key issue will be Seleznev’s 2014 arrest by U.S. Secret Service agents in the Maldives that he called a kidnapping. The defense had tried to challenge the arrest, but the judge said the issue could not come up during trial.

Seleznev had faced a 40-count indictment that charged him with running the hacking scheme from 2009 until his arrest in July 2014. The jury cleared him on two charges related to one of the Washington restaurants.

U.S. Secret Service agents captured Seleznev as he and his girlfriend arrived at the Maldives airport on their way back to Russia. The agents flew him by private jet to Guam and then to Seattle, where he has been in custody.

Seleznev was indicted on 29 felony charges in 2011, but a month later, he suffered a brain injury in a terrorist bombing in a cafe in Morocco. He was in a coma for two weeks and underwent a series of operations, according to a previous lawyer.

Prosecutors added 11 new counts in October 2014, including wire and bank fraud, hacking and identity theft.

Sitting at his keyboard in Vladivostok, Russia, and using the online nicknames “Track2,” ”Bulba” and “2Pac,” Seleznev masterminded a scheme dating to 2008, Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Barbosa said during closing arguments Wednesday.

The defense focused on challenging the evidence from Seleznev’s laptop, seized by Secret Service agents during his arrest. His lawyers claim the agents mishandled the computer and failed to adequately secure it while it was kept in a vault in Seattle.

The defense’s only witness testified that the machine may have been tampered with, and the attorneys said any evidence taken from it was suspect. They also said prosecutors failed to make a solid link between the hacks and Seleznev.

The investigation started in 2010 when a deli in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was hacked. Over time, agents were able to link the computer viruses used to steal the credit card data to computer servers where the numbers were stored. They then connected those servers to Seleznev through his online nicknames and other sites he frequented.

When he was arrested, agents found 1.7 million stolen credit cards on his laptop, along with the passwords to access those servers, prosecutors said.

Seleznev “left his digital fingerprints all over the crime scene,” Barbosa said.

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