By Martha Bellisle / Associated Press
SEATTLE — The son of a member of the Russian Parliament was sentenced Friday to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $170 million after being convicted in Seattle of hacking into U.S. businesses to steal credit card data
Roman Seleznev asked U.S. District Judge Richard Jones for leniency before he was sentenced.
“I plead, pray and beg your honor for mercy,” he said.
But Jones said Seleznev was “driven by one goal, greed.”
Lawyers for Seleznev said his troubled history, poor health and willingness to help the government catch other cybercriminals should be considered when deciding his sentence.
Seleznev was first indicted in 2011 on 29 felony charges and captured in 2014.
U.S. Secret Service agents, with the help of local police, arrested Seleznev in the Maldives as he and his girlfriend arrived at an airport on their way back to Russia.
The agents flew him by private jet to Guam, where he made his first court appearance, and then to Seattle, where he was placed in federal custody.
The indictment grew to 40 counts in October 2014 and his trial was held last August. The jury found him guilty on 38 charges, including nine counts of hacking and 10 counts of wire fraud.
“Seleznev enriched himself by these activities and lived an extravagant lifestyle at the expense of small, hard-working business owners who saw their businesses either damaged or destroyed as a result of Seleznev’s attacks,” federal prosecutors said in their pre-sentence memo to the judge.
They said his victims included more than 3,700 different financial institutions, over 500 businesses around the world and millions of individual credit card holders,
His prosecution was “unprecedented,” the deputy U.S. attorneys who worked on the case said in court documents.
“Never before has a criminal engaged in computer fraud of this magnitude been identified, captured and convicted by an American jury,” they said, calling for a severe sentence.
Seleznev’s lawyer, Igor Litvak, said his client had accepted responsibility.
After the sentencing, Litvak said 27 years was unreasonable and that Seleznev was a victim of the tense relationship between the United States and Russia.
Litvak read a statement from Seleznev, who said “the decision by the United States government clearly demonstrates to the entire world that I am a political prisoner.”
Seleznev is the son of Valery Seleznev, a Russian Parliament member. Russian authorities have condemned the arrest of Roman Seleznev as an illegal kidnapping.
To prove his commitment to helping fight cybercrime, Roman Seleznev recently arranged to give the U.S. government four of his laptops and six flash drives, and has met with officials to discuss hacker activities, Litvak said.
Seleznev’s life story should also be considered, his lawyer said.
His parents divorced when he was 2; his alcoholic mother died when he was 17; he suffered a severe head injury in a terrorist bombing in Morocco in 2011, causing his doctors to say he may not recover; and his wife divorced him while he was in a coma, Litvak told the judge.
Seleznev continues to suffer after-effects from the bombing, including seizures, Litvak said. Medical experts say there’s a high risk of “progressive impairment of his cognitive functions” and he must be monitored by specialized medical staff, he said.