“Simply put, Roman Seleznev has harmed more victims and caused more financial loss than perhaps any other defendant that has appeared before the court,” federal prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum. “This prosecution is unprecedented.”
For years, law enforcement in the United States has faced challenges in capturing and convicting Russians accused of hacking. Russian cybercriminals operate with relative impunity inside Russia as long as they do not hack targets in their country. In return for their immunity, cybercriminals are often tapped to work for Russia’s intelligence agencies.
It is only when Russian computer criminals have traveled outside Russia that United States law enforcement has detained them, most recently in Prague and in Barcelona. But law enforcement officials say more than three dozen overseas hackers suspected in crimes remain beyond their reach.
The United States Secret Service, which handles financial fraud cases, tracked Mr. Seleznev for more than a decade, according to court filings. But he was careful not to go to a country that had an extradition treaty with the United States.
The Secret Service caught a break in June 2014, when investigators learned that Mr. Seleznev planned a vacation to the Maldives with his girlfriend. The State Department persuaded the Maldivian police to assist, although the country does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.
A month later, Mr. Seleznev was arrested at the Maldives airport by the local police. He was handed over to Secret Service agents and taken by private jet to the United States territory of Guam, and from there to a federal prison in Washington.
Investigators seized evidence from Mr. Seleznev’s computers of his various hacking and carding schemes. They also found photographs of Mr. Seleznev driving flashy sports cars and vacationing in tropical locations, and photographs of stacks upon stacks of what appeared to be 5,000-ruble bills.
“This investigation, conviction and sentence demonstrates that the United States will bring the full force of the American justice system upon cybercriminals like Seleznev who victimize U.S. citizens and companies from afar,” said Kenneth A. Blanco, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s criminal division. “And we will not tolerate the existence of safe havens for these crimes — we will identify cybercriminals from the dark corners of the internet and bring them to justice.”
Mr. Seleznev is the son of Valery Seleznev, an outspoken member of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, and a close political ally of President Vladimir V. Putin…