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A Russian once known as a spam king pleaded guilty in the U.S. to charges tied to his operation of a worldwide botnet that was used to con users and steal personal information, user names and passwords.
Peter Levashov, who was previously extradited to the U.S. from Spain, was accused of commandeering a network of computers that at times exceeded 100,000. He used the so-called Kelihos botnet to distribute billions of spam emails advertising fake drugs, pump-and-dump penny stock schemes, work-at-home scams and other frauds, they said.
His guilty plea on Wednesday is the newest development in a wide-ranging U.S. hunt for hackers and other cybercriminals, especially from Russia. A Russian citizen alleged to have performed key cyber-work in the biggest financial hack of all time was extradited to New York on Friday from the republic of Georgia. Another Russian national, Yevgeniy Nikulin, was extradited to San Francisco from the Czech Republic in March after being charged with hacking LinkedIn and Dropbox.
Levashov, 38, of St. Petersburg, pleaded guilty in Hartford, Connecticut, to causing intentional damage to a personal computer, conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham said in a statement. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6, 2019. He’s being held in jail.
“Levashov lived quite comfortably while his criminal behaviour disrupted the lives of thousands of computer users,” Durham said.
The yearlong delay for his sentencing suggests he may be cooperating with the government, as a defendant who pleads guilty usually learns his fate within a few months. Thomas Carson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Durham, declined to comment on a possible cooperation agreement. Vadim Glozman, Levashov’s lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call.
Levashov was arrested in Barcelona in April 2017. At a hearing in Spain in September 2017, he claimed to be a military officer who worked for a decade for Russia’s ruling party, collecting information on opposition parties, RIA Novosti reported at the time. The party’s press office called the claim “nonsense.”
The Russian extradited to New York Friday, Andrei Tyurin, is accused of having performed key cyber-work in a hack of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and about a dozen other companies. Prosecutors called his extradition a “significant milestone” in the fight against hacking.
Last week, Greece’s supreme court heard arguments over whether to extradite Alexander Vinnik, a Russian accused of cybercrimes in the U.S., France and Russia. Vinnik allegedly oversaw a Bitcoin exchange used by Russian government hackers accused of stealing Democrats’ emails.Source: Bloomberg