US nabs alleged Russian hacker – and Kremlin cries foul

The US Department of Justice arrested a Russian in Guam for involvement in a hacking and stolen credit card ring. Moscow says he was framed. 

Elise Amendola/AP/File
Consumer credit cards are posed in North Andover, Mass., March 5, 2012.

US Secret Service agents arrested a Russian man indicted in federal court for stealing credit card accounts by hacking into personal and corporate computers yesterday.

So chalk one up for the good guys? Not if Moscow is to be believed.

Roman Seleznyov was arrested in the Pacific US territory of Guam. Moscow says that US secret service agents had bundled him onto a private plane in the Maldives

Mr. Seleznyov is no ordinary Russian citizen. His father is Valery Seleznyov, a member of parliament, and both he and the Kremlin are furious.

"It is not the first time that the US kidnaps a Russian citizen ignoring the 1999 mutual legal assistance agreement,” Itar-Tass quoted a Russian foreign ministry statement. “In particular, the same occurred with Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who were brought by force in the USA from third countries and convicted on questionable charges... The stance of Maldives’ authorities cannot be but outraging, since despite the existing international legislation norms they allowed another country's special service to kidnap a Russian citizen and take him out of the country. We demand that the Maldives’ government provides necessary explanations.”

Mr. Bout is a legendary arms trafficker purported to be close to Russian intelligence. He was arrested in Thailand in 2008 after being lured to the country in a US-orchestrated sting operation, extradited to the US, and convicted in 2011 to 25 years in jail for conspiring to kill Americans by selling weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Mr. Yaroshenko was convicted in Manhattan Federal Court in 2011 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to import $100 million worth of cocaine into the country. He was arrested in the Liberian capital of Monrovia in 2010 and extradited to the US.

Moscow was furious about the arrests of both men and termed their extraditions illegal kidnappings, as they have Seleznyov's. 

The alleged hacker's father has gone one better, telling the Kremlin outlet RT that he thinks his son was "kidnapped" to broker him for Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked hundreds of secret documents and is now living under Moscow's protection.

"For all I know they may be demanding a ransom tomorrow. Or try to exchange him for Snowden or somebody. One can only wonder,” the elder Seleznyov told RT

There are some holes in this theory, however. Not least is that his son was indicted on fraud and hacking in a US district court in March of 2011, a full two years before anyone had ever heard of Snowden. The sealed indictment, released to the public after Seleznyov's arrest, alleges he conspired to defraud a number of US financial institutions, among them Chase Bank, Capital One and Citibank. Prosecutors charge that he and conspirators sought to plant malicious software on the computers of retail businesses in Washington State that stole customers' credit card numbers that were then sold to other criminals in the online black market. 

Krebson Security has a good explainer of how the alleged scam worked.

Russian hackers are major players in Internet fraud. One Russian hacker who remains at large is currently being sought for allegedly running a hacking ring that stole credit card numbers that the FBI claims led to "hundreds of millions" in loses to banks and customers.

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