Russian MP fears US Secret Service cuffed his son for Snowden swap
Seleznev Jnr is 'prolific trafficker in stolen credit card data', it is alleged
The US Secret Service has announced the arrest of a man accused of being "one of the world's most prolific traffickers in stolen financial information," touching off a diplomatic firestorm in the process.
Roman Valerevich Seleznev, who goes by the online handle Track2, is accused of hacking into point-of-sale systems to steal credit card data, which he then allegedly sold online to fraudsters via servers he maintained.
He has been charged in Washington State with possessing more than 15 unauthorized access devices, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and unlawfully breaking into protected computer systems. He also faces similar charges in Nevada that could see him inside an American prison for the next 30 years.
"This important arrest sends a clear message: despite the increasingly borderless nature of transitional organized crime, the long arm of justice – and this Department – will continue to disrupt and dismantle sophisticated criminal organizations," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in a statement [PDF].
"This arrest reflects the hard work by the U.S. Secret Service and our interagency and international partners, and we must continue close collaboration with the law enforcement community to counter this ever evolving threat."
But "the long arm of justice" may cause American prosecutors some problems in this case, not least because Seleznev's father is a member of the Russian parliament. Secret Service agents arrested Seleznev Junior as he was boarding a plane in the Maldives and put him on a plane to Guam, where he is currently being held.
His father, a member of Russia's ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, told Russian TV network RT that his son had been "kidnapped" by US forces and taken to Guam because American legal protections are not in force on the remote island. He said his son knows nothing about using computers and that his arrest may have been for other reasons.
"For all I know they may be demanding a ransom tomorrow. Or try to exchange him for [NSA whistleblower Edward] Snowden or somebody. One can only wonder," he said.
Russia's foreign ministry has also condemned the arrest, saying it broke international treaties with both Russia and the Maldives. It has requested that Seleznev be repatriated from Guam as soon as possible, but Secret Service Director Julia Pierson seems unlikely to compromise.
"Secret Service agents utilize state-of-the-art investigative techniques to identify and pursue cyber criminals around the world. This scheme involved multiple network intrusions and data thefts for illicit financial gain," she said.
"The adverse impact this individual and other transnational organized criminal groups have on our nation's financial infrastructure is significant and should not be underestimated." ®