July 8 (Bloomberg) -- The son of a Russian lawmaker was arrested by the U.S. on charges of selling credit card information he stole by hacking into the computers of American retailers, prompting protests by the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.
Roman Seleznev, 30, was arrested overseas by the U.S. Secret Service on July 5 and was ordered detained yesterday during a hearing in federal court in Guam, the Justice Department said yesterday in a statement. He was detained at the airport of Maldivian capital, Male, and flown to Guam after being forced by U.S. agents aboard a plane operated by a private company, the Russian Foreign Ministry said today.
He is the son of Valery Seleznev, a deputy in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, according to two U.S. law enforcement officials who requested anonymity because they weren’t permitted to discuss a continuing investigation. A member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, the lawmaker said his son was vacationing abroad with his family.
The case risks further rankling the former Cold War foes as they clash over Ukraine and almost a year after Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, who faces American espionage charges. The U.S. is weighing further measures to pressure Russia over the Ukraine crisis after it already imposed travel bans and asset freezes on people and companies.
Seleznev’s father said today by phone that he’s been unable to contact his son.
“It’s not the first time that the American side essentially kidnapped a Russian citizen, ignoring the bilateral treaty of 1999 about mutual legal assistance in criminal cases,” the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said. “We are treating the episode as the latest unfriendly step by Washington.”
Russian diplomats are trying to determine the circumstances of Seleznev’s detention and secure his return as soon as possible, it said. The U.S. failed to inform Russian consular offices of the case, according to the statement.
The government in Moscow has denounced the U.S. practice of arresting Russian citizens in third countries and extraditing them. Last year, the Foreign Ministry warned Russian citizens against travel to nations that have extradition treaties with the U.S. “if they have reasons to believe U.S. law-enforcement agencies may have any claims against them.”
Russian citizens Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko were detained and transferred for biased trials based on flimsy evidence, according to the Foreign Ministry. The two men have been imprisoned in the U.S. for plotting to sell weapons to a terrorist group and smuggling drugs, respectively. Lithuania acceded to a U.S. request last year to extradite another alleged Russian arms dealer.
The Justice Department declined to say where Seleznev was arrested. He was indicted in March 2011 on charges of bank fraud and computer hacking. The indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, alleged that Seleznev was part of a hacking scheme that operated between 2009 and 2011.
The indictment alleged that Seleznev and others stole more than 200,000 credit card numbers. During a three-month span ending in February 2011, the indictment alleges, Seleznev and others sold more than 140,000 credit card numbers in online forums, generating at least a $2 million profit. Losses to financial institutions hit by the hacking operation exceeded $1.2 million, the indictment says.