Russian Lawmaker’s Son Called Prolific Hacker at U.S. Trial

Updated on
  • Seleznev charged with 40 counts in stolen credit card scheme
  • Russian ministry accused U.S. of kidnapping him in Maldives

The son of a Russian lawmaker became one of the most successful traffickers of stolen credit cards by hacking into Seattle pizza shops and retailers around the globe, a U.S. prosecutor told a jury.

Roman Seleznev amassed 1.7 million credit card numbers by installing malware on the transaction processing systems used by businesses and sold the customers’ stolen data over the internet, Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Barbosa said. Seleznev operated vending sites using nicknames such as 2Pac and Bulba before he was arrested overseas with a laptop in a bag on his shoulder containing a password “cheat sheet,” the prosecutor said.

"He is one of the most prolific credit card traffickers in history," Barbosa said Wednesday in his closing argument to jurors in Seattle federal court. “This defendant has been wreaking havoc all over the world for a decade,” resulting in credit card fraud losses of $169 million.

Seleznev, who was hunted by the U.S. Secret Service for more than 10 years before his 2014 arrest in the Maldives islands, was charged in a 40-count indictment. He’s 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.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in a statement posted on its website at the time of the arrest, accused U.S. agents of kidnapping Seleznev 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.

No Definitive Proof

Seleznev’s lawyer said 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,” attorney Emma Scanlan told jurors.

Scanlan also challenged allegations that Seleznev committed aggravated identity theft, saying there’s no way to be sure the credit card holders identified by prosecutors as victims are “real” people because they weren’t presented at the trial.

The jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

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

— With assistance by Chris Strohm

(Updates with defense lawyer’s argument in sixth paragraph.)
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