A nearly decade-long member of several elite Russian-speaking cybercrime forums was sentenced today to 110 months in prison for running a sophisticated scheme to steal and traffic sensitive personal and financial information in the online criminal underground.
Alexander Tverdokhlebov, 29, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty on March 31 to wire fraud. Accordingly to court documents, the defendant, who emigrated from Russia in 2007 and subsequently obtained U.S. citizenship, was an active member of several highly exclusive Russian-speaking cybercrime forums since at least 2008. Through his membership on these forums, Tverdokhlebov forged lucrative business partnerships with other Russian-speaking cybercriminals, with whom he exchanged tools, services, and stolen personal and financial information.
The defendant offered a variety of illegal services on these forums, including the laundering of stolen funds. He also operated several “botnets,” which are groups of compromised computers that can be used to steal credit card and other sensitive financial information. At various times between 2009 and 2013, Tverdokhlebov claimed on the cybercrime forums that, among other things, he possessed 40,000 stolen credit card numbers and could control up to 500,000 infected computers.
Tverdokhlebov executed a number of schemes to “cash out” or monetize the financial information he stole, such as by selling it to other cybercriminals or by providing it to accomplices who would use it to make fraudulent purchases or fraudulent withdrawals from victims’ accounts. In addition, the defendant recruited Russian students visiting the United States on J-1 visas to open bank accounts in their names, receive money from victim accounts, and then transfer the money to Tverdokhlebov or his co-conspirators.
The plea agreement stipulates to estimated losses between $9.5 and $25 million. Upon Tverdokhlebov’s arrest, the government seized $272,000 in hundred dollar bills distributed among several safe deposit boxes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The government was able to seize additional assets from the defendant, including Bitcoin, currently valued at approximately $5 million.
As part of the sentencing, the court also ordered the defendant to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term, with conditions of release that will include monitoring of the defendant’s computer use.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Brian J. Ebert, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kellen S. Dwyer and Laura Fong prosecuted the case.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office of New York, along with the U.S. Secret Service’s Los Angeles Field Office, provided significant assistance with the investigation.