Ninth Circuit Upholds 27-Year Sentence for Russian Hacker

(CN) – A Ninth Circuit panel upheld the 27-year prison sentence of a Russian computer hacker who was extradited to the United States while on vacation with his family in the Maldives to face charges he stole credit card numbers and millions of dollars.

Roman Seleznev claimed the U.S. government kidnapped him when he was finally arrested several years after some of his most lucrative heists. He also claimed his nearly three-decade sentence was an abuse of the court.

Seleznev, also known by his hacker handles “Ruben Samvelich” or “Track2”, caused more than $169 million in damages when he and a group of hackers stole credit card numbers and sold them on the dark web between 2009 and 2013.

Seleznev’s attacks forced the Seattle-based Broadway Grill restaurant into bankruptcy, just one of 3,700 businesses and financial institutions targeted. Seleznev and the other hackers targeted small businesses, installed malware to steal sensitive information and sold it online.

In a separate incident, a grand jury indicted Seleznev in 2014 for a heist that targeted a payroll processor in 2008. Seleznev eluded capture for several years while living in Russia, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. Seleznev is also the son of a member of the Russian parliament.

Seleznev was eventually captured during a family vacation to the Maldives in July 2015. Authorities found about 2 million stolen credit card numbers on his laptop.

He was sentenced to 27 years in prison in April 2017.

Seleznev – whose father was a member of the Russian Parliament – appealed the conviction and sentence, claiming the U.S. government violated an extradition treaty when they caught him in South Asia and did not notify the Russian government of Seleznev’s arrest ahead of time.

In a 6-page unsigned memorandum issued Monday, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel upheld Seleznev’s sentence.

“Because there is no extradition treaty between the United States and the Maldives, U.S. agents did not violate an extradition treaty. And because, as the district court reasonably found, Seleznev’s apprehension occurred with the approval and cooperation of Maldivian authorities, the U.S. agents’ conduct was not of the most “shocking and outrageous kind” as to warrant dismissal of the indictment.”

Seleznev had also asked the trial court to suppress evidence found on his computer, claiming it was “stale” by the time authorities reached him in 2014 and shouldn’t have been used to authorize a search warrant. But the panel noted the evidence included e-currency accounts connecting Seleznev to 2pac.cc, a website that had been active in 2014 and therefore wasn’t stale.

As for the 27-year sentence, the panel wrote: “Seleznev’s long sentence is not substantively unreasonable given the harm that he undoubtedly caused to many businesses, the large sums Seleznev gained from his scheme, his general lack of remorse, the need to deter other offenders who may consider similar schemes, and the sentences received by similarly situated defendants.”

In an email, Seleznev’s attorney Jim Lobsenz of Carney Law said he didn’t know if his client would challenge the conviction further.

The panel included U.S. Circuit Judges Ronald Gould and Richard Paez and U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson, sitting by designation from the Central District of California. 

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