What would you do if you stole millions — and got away with it on one condition: You never leave your home country again.
Many cyber thieves have done just that. Stolen millions and despite being known to law enforcement authorities in America, there’s no action the authorities can take as the suspects are in Russia.
A few cyber hackers, with more money than sense, don’t lay low. One even bought a lemon-yellow Dodge Charger and had his picture taken close to the Kremlin.
Needless to say that image caught the attention of American authorities and they kept their eye on him. When he went on vacation to the Maldives America knew and had him picked up.
Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed — or leave the country.
While American President Donald Trump dismisses suggestions that Moscow interfered in the recent election as “fake news,” the FBI and Congress have launched investigations into Russia’s possible role in Trump’s surprise election.
The impetus of the American campaign cycle has left Russian hackers with a problem. If they leave Russia, where there is no extradition treaty with America or one of Russia’s allies, they can get picked up and shipped to America.
Arkady Bukh, a criminal defense attorney in America, says, “They (the high-profile hackers) can’t travel. They understand the danger.” Bukh has defended multiple Russians accused of being cybercriminals.
Despite the threat, hackers enjoy vacationing abroad — and often regret their travel plans. Maxim Senakh, 41, admitted guilt in a Minneapolis courtroom to managing a large robotic meshwork that sent millions of emails daily that allegedly made him millions in proceeds.
Senakh didn’t raise his hand and volunteer to come to America. He was vacationing at his sister’s home in Finland when the Finnish placed him on a plane bound for America. The capture was at in response to an American extradition application.
“He challenged it, the Russians opposed it, and Moscow put political force on Finland,” said prosecutor Kevin S. Ueland.
In March, 2017 Senakh struck a deal that will keep him in prison for up to five years.
Another Russian, Mark Vartanyan, pled guilty to electronic fraud in an Atlanta courthouse after making an agreement with the prosecution to provide cooperation that limited his prison sentence to five years or less. Vartanyan was sent to America by Norway in December.
“This is 21st-century theft. There’s no difference than if someone pulled a truck up to your home and emptied it,” said David Hickton, a former US attorney in Pennsylvania.
Hickton admitted that successful prosecutions of cyber criminals are challenging.
“These cyber investigations are complicated. We’re talking about disappearing evidence, borderless crimes and defendants who hide behind the borders of nations which don’t have extradition treaties with America,” Hickton said.
Cyber thieves and convicted hackers can’t be pigeonholed. Some are smart and remain low-key. Others flash their money and the lifestyles their wealth supports.
“Not all of them are rich,” Bukh said. “Many are involved in computer intrusion, and that doesn’t pay as well.”
Bukh recalled one client Aleksandr Panin who, in 2013, was put on a plane to Atlanta by authorities in the Dominican Republic. Panin was tried and convicted in an Atlanta courtroom.
“He couldn’t afford a car even with causing a billion dollars in business losses. He’s near a mad scientist geek,” Bukh said.