Jury deliberates case of Russian man charged with hacking

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2016 7:39 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — The son of a Russian lawmaker made millions by hacking into U.S. businesses to steal credit card information and selling that data to other criminals, a federal prosecutor told the jury during his closing argument on Wednesday.

"He is one of the most prolific credit card traffickers in history," Assistant U.S. Attorney Norman Barbosa said of Roman Seleznev at the close of the eight-day trial. "He was stealing from merchants and banks all over the world."

The victim businesses that form the basis of the charges, mostly pizza restaurants in Washington state, had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to fix their computers and lost business and customer trust because of the hacks, he said. The thefts resulted in almost $170 million in credit card losses around the world, Barbosa said.

Sitting at his keyboard in Vladivostok, Russia, and using the online nicknames "Track2," ''Bulba" and "2Pac," Seleznev masterminded an international scheme dating back to 2008, the prosecutor said.

During her closing argument, Seleznev's lawyer, Emma Scanlan, urged the jury to question whether prosecutors made a clear link between the prosecution's evidence — the malware put on unsuspecting businesses, the internet servers holding the credit card numbers, the online nicknames to hide his identity — and the man sitting at the defense table.

Prosecutors claimed that Seleznev left his "digital fingerprints all over the crime scene," she said, but would an internet criminal who hides behind secret nicknames to protect his identity really use that same computer to send flowers to his wife or buy plane tickets using his real name?

"Is he a sophisticated hacker or is he a total idiot?" Scanlan asked. "You can't have it both ways."

The jury began deliberating just after noon and was released for the day at 4:30 p.m. They'll start back at 9 a.m. Thursday. They must decide whether Seleznev is guilty of 40 charges that range from bank and wire fraud, hacking and identity theft.

When U.S. Secret Service agents arrested Seleznev at a Maldives airport in 2014, they found 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers on his computer and a "password cheat sheet" for the computer servers that stored that stolen data, Barbosa said.

"His username and passwords tied him to everything," Barbosa said.

But the defense accused the agents involved in the investigation of tampering with the defendant's laptop computer after his arrest.

The agent who took the laptop failed to bring a special container, a "Faraday enclosure," that would protect it during transport, she said. And the agents didn't turn the laptop off or plug it in when they stored it in the Secret Service vault for 23 days, she said.

"We expect the U.S. Secret Service, who specializes in these cases, would do it correctly," she said. They were supposed to "preserve the crime scene with tape, in the meantime, all of these things happen. It affects the integrity of the investigation."

In his rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Chun said the evidence found on the laptop was only the "frosting on the cake." The investigation that took place over several years had already established that the hacker who went by the nicknames "2Pac," ''Track2," and "Bulba," was Roman Seleznev. The malware on the victim computers, the usernames and passwords on the servers that held the stolen data are linked back to one man: Seleznev.

"The evidence from all of these places match up," Chun said. It was all part of his criminal infrastructure, he said, and urged the jury to return a verdict of guilty on all counts.

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