A Russian man accused of trafficking in millions of stolen credit-card numbers will be represented by the Seattle Federal Public Defender’s Office, a judge ruled Wednesday following a closed hearing in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The two private lawyers representing accused international hacker Roman Seleznev were allowed to withdraw their representation following the hearing before U.S. District Judge Richard Jones, who cleared the courtroom after determining that he may have to quiz Seleznev under oath about matters he has discussed in private with his lawyers.
Attorneys Steven Fogg of the Seattle firm Corr Cronin Michelson Baumbardner Fogg & Moore, and lawyer Anny Goykhman, who had been representing Seleznev, declined to discuss their reasons for withdrawing as his attorneys.
Jones said he would refer Seleznev to the public defender’s office after he filled out a financial disclosure form, which are usually sealed by the court. Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Barbosa also declined to discuss the matter and would not comment on Seleznev’s finances.
Prosecutors allege he may have stolen more than $17 million through stealing and selling millions of credit-card numbers on the cyber-black market.
Seleznev, 30, is the son of Valery Seleznev, a prominent member of the Russian Federation parliament and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was arrested by U.S. Secret Service agents on July 5 while vacationing in the Maldives, a tiny chain of islands in the Indian Ocean. The Russian government has called the arrest a “kidnapping.”
Seleznev has already abandoned two other sets of attorneys, including a pair from the international law firm Fox Rothschild who flew in from New York for his first appearance in Seattle court. Fox Rothschild and a local firm that was acting as their Seattle liason, Garver Schubert Barer, withdrew after Jones found they had potential conflicts of interests for representing companies that may have been victimized by Seleznev.
Jones said a May trial date remains firm at this point. Jones has given the case a complex-litigation schedule, a nod to the fact that the Secret Service and other federal investigators in Seattle and Las Vegas — where Seleznev faces another hacking-related prosecution — have gathered more than 15 terabytes of potential electronic evidence detailing the alleged crimes.
Seleznev was indicted by a Seattle grand jury in 2011, charging him with 29 counts of bank fraud, computer hacking and aggravated identity theft. He is wanted in Nevada on money-laundering charges. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the Seattle indictment.
Barbosa told Donohue that a laptop taken from Seleznev by federal agents contained nearly 2.1 million stolen credit-card numbers. Proceeds from the thefts, Barbosa said, may exceed $17 million.