A Russian hacker has been sentenced to 27 years in US prison, drawing a response from Moscow that his arrest was illegal. Prosecutors said they wanted to send a message to hackers around the globe.
A US federal judge on Friday handed the son of a Russian lawmaker the longest-ever cybercrime-related sentence in the United States.
Roman Seleznev, 32, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for hacking into the point-of-sale systems of more than 500 US businesses to steal credit card numbers, which he then sold on to special criminal websites. He was also ordered to pay $169 million in restitution to the businesses and banks that fell victim to the multi-year scheme.
Seleznev was indicted in 2011 on multiple felony charges and arrested by US Secret Service agents and Maldives police in 2014 when he and his girlfriend were on the island nation.
He was then taken to the US territory of Guam for a first court appearance, then placed into federal custody in Seattle. A jury last year convicted Seleznev of multiple counts of fraud. The crimes took place between October 2009 and October 2013.
The US has indicted dozens foreign hackers, many from Russia, but few have been captured and tried. Russia is believed to protect cybercriminals and use their skills for intelligence purposes.
Prosecutors asked the judge for a tough sentence to send a message to other hackers around the world.
"This investigation, conviction and sentence demonstrates that the United States will bring the full force of the American justice system upon cybercriminals like Seleznev who victimize US citizens and companies from afar," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco. "And we will not tolerate the existence of safe havens for these crimes – we will identify cybercriminals from the dark corners of the Internet and bring them to justice."
Seleznev is the son of Valery Seleznev, a member of Russia's lower house of parliament, or Duma.
Russia has described his arrest in the Maldives as illegal.
"We continue to believe that the arrest of the Russian citizen Roman Seleznev, who de facto was kidnapped on the territory of a third country, is unlawful," the Russian Embassy in Washington said in a post on its Facebook page.
Seleznev had asked the judge for leniency, saying he apologized to the victims and regretted the crimes. He also asked the judge to consider his medical problems from being injured in a 2011 terrorist bombing in Morocco.
US District Judge Richard Jones told Seleznev the bombing "was an invitation to right your wrongs and recognize you were given a second chance in life." But instead, Seleznev "amassed a fortune" and hurt hundreds of small business, Jones said.
"You were driven by one goal: greed," Jones said before handing out the sentence.
Aftersentencing, Seleznev's attorney Igor Litvak read a statement from his client.
"This decision made by the United States government clearly demonstrates to the entire world that I'm a political prisoner," Seleznev wrote. "I was kidnapped by the US. Now they want to send a message to the world using me as a pawn. This message that the US is sending today is not the right way to show Vladimar Putin of Russia, or any government in this world how justice works in a democracy."
Seleznev also faces charges in the US states of Nevada and Florida.
Separately on Friday, a federal jury in Connecticut issued an eight-count indictment against a Russian hacker for allegedly running the Kelihos botnet, a global network of tens of thousands of infected computers used to gain login credentials, send bulk spam e-mails and install malicious software.
Peter Yuryevich Levashov, 36, was arrested while vacationing in Barcelona earlier this month. US authorities are seeking his extradition from Spain.
cw/rc (AP, Reuters)