Latvian Gets Time Served for Role in Gozi Computer Virus

  • Calovskis helped alter virus to fool victims more easily
  • Millions were stolen from bank accounts around the globe

A Latvian hacker who made $1,000 for writing code used in a virus that infected more than a million computers worldwide has already spent enough time in prison, a U.S. judge ruled.

Deniss Calovskis was sentenced to the 20 1/2 months he spent in jail fighting extradition to the U.S. and in pretrial custody. He’ll probably be returned to Latvia within a week, his lawyer, David Bertan, said following a sentencing hearing in Manhattan Tuesday.

Calovskis, who pleaded guilty in September to a single count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, apologized to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood, telling her that he wrote the illegal software to make money during an economic downturn in Latvia.

He wrote what’s called a web inject. That was a piece of computer code that customized the Gozi computer virus to help fool victims into providing personal identification information that was used by others to steal money from bank accounts, according to the U.S. The coding changed the appearance of banking websites when viewed from infected computers, allowing users to collect additional information from victims.

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of at least two years. Bertan argued his client should get no additional jail time, as he had already spent 10 1/2 months in jail in Latvia while contesting extradition to the U.S., then another 10 months in a U.S. prison. Wood ordered Calovskis to forfeit the $1,000 he made in the scheme.

Limited Role

Calovskis is one of three men charged in 2013 in a conspiracy to distribute the virus. Prosecutors said Calovskis’ contribution to the Gozi virus was limited and that he didn’t receive any of the money that was stolen from bank accounts.

Bertan told Wood in court papers that Calovskis was arrested while at home in Latvia on Dec. 4, 2012.

"The Latvian police stormed his family apartment by rappelling down from the roof of the building and shooting tear gas into it, while at the same time other officers kicked in the door and threw him and his parents to the ground," Bertan said. "He was hooded and removed to a police station where Latvian police and FBI agents interrogated him."

Calovskis was kept in "extremely harsh conditions" in the Central Prison in Riga, Latvia’s capital, Bertan said.

The case is U.S. v. Calovskis, 12-cr-00487, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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