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5 men named in racket that netted $4m in stolen card data

All aboard the Western Express Cybercrime Group

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Prosecutors in Manhattan have named five additional men from Eastern Europe in an alleged scheme that pilfered $4m using more than 95,000 stolen credit cards.

Using handles such as "the Viver," "Inexwor," and "DoZ," the men were part of an international conspiracy that reached half-way around the world to snatch the payment card credentials of people located in New York, according to prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney's office. They branded their highly profitable enterprise the Western Express Cybercrime Group.

The charges were originally filed in November 2007 in a 173-count indictment that charged 17 individuals and one corporation. It claimed that from 2001 to 2007, the defendants made millions of dollars trafficking stolen card numbers through a complex syndicate that included cybercrime services providers and money mules to sell stolen merchandise over eBay.

They employed anonymous digital currencies such as Egold and Webmoney to cover their tracks and placed ads on underground carding forums, according to prosecutors.

Defendants Viatcheslav Vasilyev, 33, and Vladimir Kramarenko, 31, were arrested simultaneously at their residences in Prague, Czech Republic in July 2008, and extradited to the US last week, district-attorney officials said Monday. The men allegedly bought stolen card numbers for the purposes of committing larcenies and identity theft. Part of their scheme involved a website named Elgouna Ltd., which recruited individuals to sell stolen merchandise online, according to the district attorney's office.

They are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in New York state court.

Egor Shevelev, 23, of Ukraine, was arrested in May 2008 while vacationing in Greece. He possessed more than 75,000 stolen account numbers and laundered over $600,000 in illegal proceeds, prosecutors said. He has not yet been extradited to the US.

The two remaining defendants have not been apprehended. They are Dzimitry Burak, aka Leon Kurochkin, a 26-year-old living in Ukraine, and Oleg Kovelin, aka Oleg Covelin, a 28-year-old from Moldova.

The case stems from a four-year investigation carried out jointly by the Manhattan District Attorney's Identity Theft Unit an the US Secret Service.

An attorney for Vasilyev told The New York Times that her client owned a legitimate web design business in Prague and planned to plead not guilty. An attorney for Kramarenko said he planned to vigorously contest the charges.

A spokeswoman said the Manhattan District Attorney's office doesn't provide electronic copies of indictments, but offered to mail a hard copy. A press release is available here. ®

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