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Accused Russian hacker to face charges in U.S. court

Russian national charged for alleged role in conspiracy that stole more than 160 million credit card numbers

WASHINGTON — A Russian national has been extradited to the U.S. and indicted on charges in what officials called "the largest international hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States."

Vladimir Drinkman, 34, with dual addresses in Syktyvkar and Moscow, was charged Tuesday for his alleged role in a worldwide conspiracy that stole more than 160 million credit card numbers and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to consumers and financial institutions.

In a brief appearance in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., Drinkman pleaded not guilty to 11 counts in the indictment and was ordered by Magistrate Judge James B. Clark to be held without bail. He was originally arrested by Dutch authorities in the Netherlands in June 2012.

"Cybercriminals conceal themselves in one country and steal information located in another country, impacting victims around the world," Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Leslie R. Caldwell said Tuesday.

"Hackers often take advantage of international borders and differences in legal systems, hoping to evade extradition to face justice," he said. "This case and today's extradition demonstrates that through international cooperation, and through great teamwork ... we are able to bring cyberthieves to justice in the United States."

The case against Drinkman was led by the Secret Service. The agency first began tracking him under the nickname "Scorpo." Eventually U.S. and Dutch officials cornered him at a hotel in Amsterdam. Held by local authorities, he fought extradition to the U.S. Last month a Dutch court cleared the way for extradition.

According to the indictment, Drinkman was proficient in penetrating network security and gaining access to the corporate assets of his victims. Among his targets have been Dow Jones, 7-Eleven, Nasdaq, Visa and JetBlue, the indictment said. Some of the hacking operations occurred as long as five years ago and possibly earlier.

Typically, the indictment said, Drinkman and co-conspirators would hijack user names and passwords, credit and debit card numbers and personal identification numbers.

After acquiring the data, which they referred to as "dumps," they allegedly sold the material to resellers around the world, U.S. officials said. Drinkman allegedly charged $10 for each stolen American credit card number and associated data and about $50 for each European credit card number and related data.

Joseph P. Clancy, acting director of the Secret Service, said Drinkman's prosecution should serve as a warning to other would-be cyberthieves around the globe.

"Our investigative reach," he said, "can expand beyond the borders of the United States."

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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