A Russian national, Aleksei Burkov, pleaded guilty to masterminding a $20 million Cardplanet Payment Card and Malware-Exchange Fraud. He was extradited from Israel late last year, despite reported efforts by Russia to prevent the accused from reaching American soil. The 29-year-old faces a cumulative sentence of up to 15 years in prison, a fine of $500,000 or more, and a supervised release term of up to 3 years. As part of the sentence, he will also need to forfeit any fraud-related assets.
Masterminding Cyber Fraud
Former St. Petersburg resident Aleksei Burkov ran two websites devoted to the facilitation of payment card fraud, computer hacking and other cyber crimes.
On the first website, called Cardplanet, visitors could buy stolen credit and debit card numbers for as little as $2.50 all the way up to $60. Stolen payment card details are usually obtained through phishing, malware, malicious software installed into merchant point-of-sales terminals, leaked databases and hacked accounts. Burkov even offered a money-back guarantee: he promised to replace payment payment card numbers that no longer worked. In total, buyers made over $20 million worth of fraudulent purchases with the stolen data.
The second website was accessible by invite only. It offered members a cybercrime forum to plan online crimes, buy and sell personal identifying information and malicious software, and offer criminal services. To obtain membership, three existing members needed to vouch for the cybercriminal’s “good” reputation. Prospective members also needed to pay the sum of $5,000 as an insurance.
Years Long Appeal Battle
Burkov was initially arrested in 2015, while holidaying with his girlfriend in Israel. His case made headlines multiple times. First, when Russia tried a tactic they use frequently, saying that Burkov was actually wanted back home for internet fraud and filed its own competing extradition request.
When this didn’t work, Russia proposed a prisoner swap with an Israeli-American backpacker they arrested on cannabis charges. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old woman was hit with a disproportionate punishment while caught up in the political upheaval. She received a seven-year prison sentence for the possession of 9.5 grams of marijuana.
Israel did not budge and finally granted an extradition request to the US in 2017. Two more years of appeals followed before Burkov was finally extradited in November 2019. Late last year he faced the court of the Eastern District of Virginia and entered into a plea agreement.
Russian Pleads Guilty
Aleksei Burkov pleaded guilty to counts two and five of the original indictment. The first was for access device fraud. The second was for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, identity theft, computer intrusions, wire fraud and money laundering.
Combined, the two charges could lead to a maximum term of 15 years imprisonment, a fine of $500,000 or more, and a supervised release term of up to 3 years. Burkov also agreed to forfeit all interests in any fraud-related assets over which he directly or indirectly exercises or exercised control within the past 10 years.
Burkov will be sentenced on May 8, 2020.