Unauthorized Intrusions into an Investment Firm

Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana
Michael Cotter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana

by Michael Cotter
U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana

Between December 20, 2007, and January 11, 2008, John Doe effected a series of unauthorized intrusions into the computer system of the financial investment firm D.A. Davidson based in Great Falls, Montana. The computer intrusion resulted in the theft of personal and/or financial account information from thousands of customers. John Doe demanded $80,000 in exchange for not disclosing security vulnerabilities and destroying any confidential information stolen from Davidson’s computer system.

The United States Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice’s Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) coordinated with the United States Secret Service (“USSS”), in conjunction with Davidson, in an effort to track down Doe and the source of the computer intrusion. But the perpetrators used a number of sophisticated methods to conceal the source of the intrusion. Agents tracked the intrusion through a number of different countries, but to no avail. Instead, the investigation focused on negotiating payment terms with the perpetrators of the intrusion.

From approximately February 8, 2008, to February 18, 2008, the USSS negotiated with John Doe for the delivery of money to the Netherlands through Western Union transfers. John Doe specifically identified Aleksandrs Hoholko and Jevgenijs Kuzmenko as the individuals to pick up the money. Law enforcement coordinated with Agents of the Netherlands High Tech Crime Unit who observed Hoholko attempting to pick the money up and arrested him. Agents also arrested Vitalijs Drozdovs who drove Hoholko to the Western Union location. Officers discovered a firearm and money transfer receipts in the vehicle. Dutch law enforcement then went to the apartment where Drozdovs and Hoholko were staying and discovered Kuzmenko residing there as well. Agents recovered Drozdovs’ cell phone which had a text message on it referring to one of the Western Union transfers from Davidson to the Netherlands.

After lengthy extradition proceedings, Drosdovs, Hoholko and Kuzmenko appeared in the District of Montana in October 2009. They were convicted and sentenced on June 10, 2010, on charges of receiving extortion proceeds. They were sentenced to time served since they had been imprisoned throughout the extradition proceedings. This case is a demonstration of cooperation and coordination between the USSS, United States Attorney’s Office, CCIPS and foreign governments including the Netherlands High Tech Crime Unit.