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August 8, 2014 at 6:02 PM

Russian man accused of hacking scheme pleads not guilty

A Russian man accused of hacking more than 200,000 credit-card numbers from hundreds of U.S. businesses — including eight Puget Sound-area restaurants — pleaded not guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Roman Seleznev, 30, the son of a prominent member of the Russian Parliament, faces 29 counts related to allegations of creating and operating a fraud scheme that hacked into point-of-sale computers in U.S. retailers.

According to Secret Service officials, the arrest was one of the agency’s most significant busts of an alleged hacker dealing in stolen credit-card information.

The charges against Seleznev include bank fraud, intentionally causing damage to a protected computer, obtaining information from a protected computer, possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices, trafficking in unauthorized access devices and aggravated identity theft.

Seleznev was indicted in March 2011 in Seattle and was apprehended last month while on vacation in the Maldives, according to Secret Service officials.

His arrest became contentious when Russia’s foreign ministry said in statements that he was “kidnapped” by the United States in the Maldives.

The U.S. Secret Service denied braking any treaties and said that Seleznev was arrested by Maldivian officials.

Seleznev was then transported to Guam, where a U.S. district judge confirmed his identity and ruled United States courts had jurisdiction in the case, despite a motion to dismiss filed by his lawyer on grounds that the arrest was illegal.

Seleznev is accused of renting and operating servers that installed malware on retail computers that identified and stole credit-card information, according to the 2011 indictment.

The indictment alleges that Seleznev and his associates would then use servers to host online forums for cybercriminals where they would sell the stolen financial information.

The Secret Service’s Seattle office was alerted to the thefts in November 2010, when customers at the former Broadway Grill on Capitol Hill complained of fraudulent charges on their cards, Secret Service agent Bob Kierstead told The Seattle Times last month.

The other Washington businesses Seleznev allegedly hacked were Grand Central Bakery, Mad Pizza locations in Seattle and Tukwila, Village Pizza in Anacortes and the Casa Mia Italian Restaurant in Yelm, Thurston County.

The indictment estimates that revenues from the scheme exceeded $2 million for Seleznev and his associates through the sale of more than 140,000 credit-card numbers. Authorities estimated that the loss to financial institutions that issued the hacked cards exceeded $1.7 million.

When Seleznev appeared in court Friday for his arraignment, he was given a Russian translator for the trial. When Magistrate Judge John Weinberg asked Seleznev if he fully understood the charges against him, his translator interpreted, “I understand them but they are untrue.”

Seleznev’s trial was set for Oct. 6.

Comments | Topics: credit cards, theft

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