Founder and Majority Owner of Cryptocurrency Exchange Pleads Guilty to Unlicensed Money Transmitting
Later Today, Nikolaj Sofinskij will be arraigned before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr., at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on an indictment charging him and others with three counts each of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy and one count of aggravated identity theft, in connection with schemes to steal personally identifiable information (PII) on the black market and to buy merchandise in the United States for resale abroad based on the PII. Sofinskij was extradited to the United States yesterday after being arrested in Romania. For similar charges, defendants Ruslan Albertovich Nurullin was extradited to the United States from Morocco and arraigned at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on September 15, and Aleksandr Popan was extradited to the United States from Germany and arraigned at a federal courthouse in Brooklyn on October 16.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and James Smith, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI) announced the
“The defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud victims out of more than $48 million by stealing sensitive personal information, including social security numbers, and using it to buy and then resell electronics and luxury goods,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “This case shows that if criminals organize to target U.S. victims in their international crimes, our Office will unite with the international community to catch and bring them to justice.”
Mr. Peace thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, INTERPOL, the United States Marshals Service and the authorities of Morocco, Germany, and Romania for their assistance in securing the arrests and extraditions of Nurullin, Popan, and Sofinskij, respectively.
“Nurullin, Popan and Sofinskij allegedly engaged in multiple reshipping schemes, utilizing online communications to execute their scams, leading to $48 million in losses for their victims. The announcement today highlights the FBI’s commitment along with our international law enforcement partners to bringing criminals to the United States to be held accountable for their crimes,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Smith.
As alleged in the indictment, from approximately 2013 to 2018, individuals located primarily in Russia and countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe operated reshipping schemes to defraud merchants, banks and individuals in the United States. Nurullin, Popan and Sofinskij resided in Russia during the schemes, and they were arrested in their respective countries pursuant to INTERPOL Red Notices based on arrest warrants issued from the Eastern District of New York.
Scheme participants communicated online on websites called “Admin Panels.” Popan set up one of those Admin Panels, called USS-Design. Participants called “Stuffers” used stolen PII from victims—including their social security numbers and credit and debit card numbers—to buy merchandise such as smartphones, computers, luxury clothing and handbags from online retailers. These Stuffers deceived the retailers by having them ship merchandise to addresses in the United States, where the items would later be reshipped to Russia and to CIS and Eastern European countries for resale. Nurullin and Sofinskij served as Stuffers associated with the Admin Panels called Strongbox.cc, Arenaproject.it, and Astra Star Ave.
Participants divided profits frequently through a virtual currency exchange based in Russia, and they reinvested proceeds into the ongoing schemes, including by buying prepaid mailing labels to facilitate shipments to Russia and elsewhere. The reshipping schemes caused more than $48 million in losses to victims.
The charges in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. The defendants face a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment for each of the fraud, fraud conspiracy and money laundering counts. If convicted of the aggravated identity theft counts, the defendants face a mandatory additional sentence of 2 years’ imprisonment.
In July 2022, Mr. Peace was selected as the Chairperson of the White Collar Fraud subcommittee for the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC). As the leader of the subcommittee, Mr. Peace plays a key role in making recommendations to the AGAC to facilitate the prevention, investigation and prosecution of various financially motivated, non-violent crimes, including mail and wire fraud and identity theft—such as the crimes that Nurullin, Popan and Sofinskij committed.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Organized Crime and Gangs Section. Assistant United States
E.D.N.Y. Docket No.
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office