Russian hacker sentenced to three years in prison

A Russian hacker, tricked into coming to the U.S. by the FBI, was sentenced to three years in prison after he was convicted on 20 counts of conspiracy, fraud and other related computer crimes.

According to a statement by the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle, U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour on Friday also ordered Vasiliy Gorshkov, 27, of Chelyabinsk, Russia, to pay restitution of nearly $700,000 for the losses he caused to Seattle-based Internet service provider Speakeasy Inc., Nara Bank NA in Los Angeles, Central National Bank in Waco, Texas, online payment company PayPal Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., and Internet service provider Lightrealm in Kirkland, Wash.

According to the government, the FBI lured Gorshkov and another man from Chelyabinsk, Alexey Ivanov, 23, to the U.S. as part of an FBI investigation into Russian computer intrusions directed at Internet service providers, e-commerce sites and online banks in the U.S.

The pair hacked into the companies' computers to steal credit card information and other personal financial data and then often tried to extort money from the victims by threatening to expose that information to the public or damage the companies' computers, the government said.

As part of its undercover operation, the FBI set up a fake Seattle-based computer security company named Invita. FBI agents then contacted Gorshkov and Ivanov and persuaded them to come to the U.S. to demonstrate their computer skills.

At a face-to-face meeting with the FBI, the hackers took responsibility for various hacking activities. The FBI then obtained access via the Internet to two of the men's computers in Russia and gathered information about their hacking activities.

They were arrested in November 2000, and Ivanov was transported to Connecticut to face charges that he hacked into computer systems owned by Online Information Bureau Inc. in Vernon, Conn., according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Gorshkov, who was convicted after a jury trial, could have faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count, or 100 years total, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count.

The U.S. attorney's office had asked the judge to sentence Gorshkov to 24 to 30 years in prison, while his defense attorney, Seattle-based John Lundin recommended a sentence of 30 to 36 months, Lundin said.

He said the judge didn't agree with the government's assertions that Gorshkov was the mastermind behind the pair's illegal activities.

Lundin said Ivanov pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Connecticut on Aug. 2 to the charges pending against him in five different districts, including Connecticut and Washington, but hasn't been sentenced.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Seattle said the agency would have no comment beyond what was contained in its press release.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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