Syrian Electronic Army Member Extradited to the United States
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Peter Romar, 36, a Syrian national affiliated with the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), made his initial appearance here this afternoon on charges that he conspired to violate U.S. law, including by unauthorized access to, and damage of, computers and related extortionate activities; receiving the proceeds of extortion; money laundering; wire fraud; violations of the Syrian Sanctions Regulations; and unlawful interstate communications.
Romar, who was detained by German authorities on a provisional arrest warrant on behalf of the United States, was charged by criminal complaint unsealed on March 22, 2016.
According to allegations in the complaint, beginning in or around 2011, co-defendant Firas Dardar, 27, known online as “The Shadow,” and another member of the SEA’s “Special Operations Division” engaged in a multi-year criminal conspiracy to conduct computer intrusions against perceived detractors of President Bashar al-Assad, including media entities, the White House and foreign governments. Beginning in or around 2013, SEA members Romar and Dardar also engaged in an extortion scheme that involved hacking online businesses in the United States and elsewhere for personal profit. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the conspiracy would gain unauthorized access to the victims’ computers and then threaten to damage computers, delete data or sell stolen data unless the victims provided extortion payments to Dardar and/or Romar. In at least one instance, Dardar attempted to use his affiliation with the SEA to instill fear into his victim. If a victim could not make extortion payments to the conspiracy’s Syrian bank accounts due to the Syrian Sanctions Regulations or other international sanctions regulations, Romar would act as an intermediary in an attempt to evade those sanctions.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; James Trainor, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division; and Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after Romar’s initial appearance.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jay V. Prabhu and Maya D. Song of the Eastern District of Virginia, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Van Grack and Trial Attorneys Scott McCulloch and Nathan Charles of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the NASA Office of the Inspector General, Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security and other law enforcement agencies.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 1:14-mj-292, and 1:14-mj-498.
Criminal complaints contain allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.