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Press Release

Ukrainian Citizen Sentenced To 41 Months In Prison For Using Army Of 13,000 Infected Computers To Loot Log-In Credentials, Payment Card Data

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – The administrator of two criminal online hacking forums was sentenced today to 41 months in prison for stealing log-in and payment card data as part of an international hacking conspiracy, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Sergey Vovnenko, a/k/a “Sergey Vovnencko,” “Tomas Rimkis,” “Flycracker,” “Flyck,” “Fly,” “Centurion,” “MUXACC1,” “Stranier,” and “Darklife,” 31, most recently of Naples, Italy, previously pleaded guilty before the U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to Count One and Count Three of an indictment charging him with wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. Judge Salas imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.

Vovnenko was arrested on June 13, 2014, following an international investigation led by the U.S. Secret Service in coordination with Italian law enforcement. He had been detained by the Italian authorities pending the resolution of extradition proceedings, which he contested for more than 15 months.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From September 2010 through August 2012, Vovnenko and his conspirators operated an international criminal organization that hacked into the computers of individual users and companies located in the United States and elsewhere. They used that access to steal user names and passwords for bank accounts and other online services, as well as debit and credit card numbers and related personal identifying information.

Vovnenko admitted that, in order to steal this data, he operated a “botnet” – more than 13,000 computers infected with malicious computer software – programmed to gain unauthorized access to computers and to identify, store, and export information from hacked computers. A number of the infected computers were located in New Jersey. Vovnenko admitted using malware known as “Zeus” to steal banking information and record the keystrokes of the users of infected computers.

According to the indictment, Vovnenko was a high-level administrator of several online criminal forums and used his position to traffic in the data he stole as part of the conspiracy. These forums featured electronic bulletin boards, which members used to publicly communicate with all members and also send private messages directly to individual members.

The public and private discussions on these forums typically pertained to criminal activity, including the purchase, sale, and use of stolen log-in credentials and payment card data, as well as discussions related to cybercrime activity such as malicious computer hacking. For example, in August 2012, one of the forums offered various illicit products for sale, including access to compromised computer servers located in the United States. A price was listed for each product, and customers could click an “order” button and purchase the product using “credits” associated with their accounts.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Salas sentenced Vovnenko to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $83,368.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited the special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Criminal Investigations Division, under the direction of Director Joseph P. Clancy, and special agents from the Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

He also thanked the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs in Washington and its attaché in Rome; The U.S. Embassy to Italy and the Republic of San Marino; and the Italian Ministry of Justice and Italian law enforcement officials for their extraordinary support.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Shapiro of the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

Defense Counsel: Timothy Anderson Esq., Red Bank, New Jersey

Updated February 21, 2017

Identity Theft
Press Release Number: 17-038