Feds seek 30-year sentence for Russian master hacker convicted in Seattle

Roman Seleznev, the son of a prominent Russian lawmaker, was convicted last year of stealing millions of credit-card numbers from U.S. businesses, including restaurants in Washington state.

In Russian cybercrime mastermind Roman Seleznev, the Department of Justice is boasting it finally caught and convicted a big fish in the often impenetrable world of global computer theft — and now the agency intends to make a lesson of him.

Federal prosecutors will ask a Seattle judge Friday to sentence the 32-year-old Seleznev to 30 years in prison for operating a massive — maybe unprecedented — credit-card theft scheme from behind keyboards in Vladivostok, Russia, and Bali, Indonesia. Over a decade, Seleznev stole and sold on the black market more than 2 million credit-card numbers, resulting in losses of at least $170 million, and maybe into the billions, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

“Never before has a criminal engaged in computer fraud of this magnitude been identified, captured and convicted by an American jury,” prosecutors wrote.

Seleznev, in an 11-page handwritten letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Jones, admits it all, saying he turned his considerable computer skills to crime out of desperation after he found himself on the streets of Vladivostok alone after his mother, divorced from his Russian politician father, died from alcoholism at age 40.

Seleznev wrote that he found her dead in the bathtub of their tiny flat, which was shared with four other families. After that, he was on the streets.

“I was 17, struggle hard, and lose my way into bad world,” he wrote.

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The prosecution of Seleznev has proved as epic as his crimes. According to federal sentencing documents, he first appeared on federal law-enforcement radar screens in 2005 as the hacker “nCuX,” a translation of the Russian word for “psycho.”

By 2009, Seleznev had “become one of the world’s leading providers of stolen credit card data,” prosecutors wrote.

During this time, prosecutors say agents learned the identity of Seleznev, the son of Valery Seleznev, a member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament. Prosecutors contend the senior Seleznev has tried to protect his son.

 

In May 2009, according to the sentencing documents, agents with the FBI and Secret Service met with members of the Russian Federal Security Service in Moscow and presented evidence of Roman Seleznev’s crimes.

“The agents’ attempt at international coordination backfired,” prosecutors wrote. “Shortly after that, nCuX completely disappeared from the internet.”

 

Rather than going out of business, however, prosecutors say Seleznev reappeared in Indonesia using new identities — “Track2” and “Bulba” — and employed new innovations that “took his carding enterprise to the next level.”

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