Latvian man pleads not guilty over Gozi computer virus scheme

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 13, 2015 5:54 PM

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Latvian man pleaded not guilty on Friday to U.S. charges stemming from his alleged role in an international cybercrime ring behind a virus that infected more than a million computers worldwide.

Deniss Calovskis, 29, entered the plea in federal court in Manhattan a day after being extradited from Latvia to face charges that he wrote some of the computer code that made the so-called Gozi virus so effective.

U.S. authorities have called the virus one of the most financially destructive in history, infecting at least 40,000 computers in the United States alone, including more than 160 NASA computers.

Prosecutors say it was used to access personal bank account information and steal millions of dollars from customer accounts globally.

An indictment against Calovskis was unsealed in January 2013 when prosecutors announced separate charges against Nikita Kuzmin, a Russian whom they say created the virus, and Mihai Ionut Paunescu, a Romanian who allegedly ran a service that enabled its distribution.

Prosecutors say Calovskis, who resided in Riga, Latvia, was hired to develop a computer code that altered how banks' websites appeared in order to trick victims into divulging personal information.

Calovskis has been charged with engaging in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, access device fraud, computer intrusion, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 67 years in prison.

Kuzmin pleaded guilty in May 2011 and has been cooperating with the investigation. Pauneschu was arrested in Romania in December 2012, but he has yet to appear in U.S. court to face charges.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)