Russian Lawmaker’s Son Convicted in U.S. of Hacking Scheme

Cyber Crime in Russia Makes It Prey as Much as Predator
  • Roman Seleznev found guilty by jury of credit card trafficking
  • Russian ministry accused U.S. of kidnapping him in Maldives

The son of a Russian lawmaker was convicted of orchestrating a global hacking bonanza in what a U.S. prosecutor called one of the most prolific credit card trafficking schemes in history.

Roman Seleznev, 32, was found guilty Thursday by a Seattle federal jury of filching consumer credit numbers from hundreds of retail businesses worldwide, many of them pizza restaurants, and selling the stolen data on the Internet, allegedly causing $169 million in fraud losses.

He faces as long as 30 years in prison for the most serious charge, wire fraud affecting a financial institution, according to the government. He was acquitted of two counts in a 40-count indictment after jurors deliberated for less than a day. Sentencing is set for Dec. 2.

Prosecutors said Seleznev amassed 1.7 million credit card numbers by installing malware on the transaction processing systems used by businesses and then sold the numbers online using nicknames such as 2Pac and Bulba before he was arrested overseas.

Seleznev, who was hunted by the U.S. Secret Service for more than a decade before his 2014 arrest in the Maldives islands, is the son of Valery Seleznev, a member of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. The arrest was a rare victory for investigators seeking alleged cybercriminals in countries such as Russia that don’t have extradition treaties with the U.S. or histories of cooperating with American authorities.

‘Outside Influences’

John Henry Browne, a lawyer for Seleznev, said he plans to appeal. He said his client, who suffered severe injuries in a car accident, wanted to avoid a trial but was persuaded by “outside influences” not to continue negotiating with the government. He declined to elaborate.

“He’s smart enough to know the trial was probably going to have an outcome like this,” Browne said. “He knows our best opportunity is going to be on appeal."

Seleznev also faces charges in Georgia and Nevada, Browne said. In the Nevada case, he was one of 55 people charged in 2012 in a conspiracy that allegedly trafficked in credit card data and counterfeit identifications. At least 25 of those defendants had been convicted as of two years ago, while others were fugitives, according to an August 2014 statement by the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle.

Foreign Ministry

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement posted on its website when Seleznev was arrested, accused U.S. agents of kidnapping him after a passport check in the Maldives and forcibly taking him to Guam. The judge presiding over the trial barred Seleznev’s lawyer from arguing to the jury that he was kidnapped.

Yuri Melnik, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington, had no immediate comment on the verdict and referred questions to the Russian Consul General in Seattle, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Another Seleznev attorney, Emma Scanlan, said in her closing argument at trial that there was no definitive proof tying him to the cyber crimes.

“We don’t have a single picture of Roman in front of the computer,” she told jurors.

The case is U.S. v. Seleznev, 11-cr-00070, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).

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