Sun, Feb 04, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Russian spammer claiming Kremlin ties sent to US

HIGH-PROFILE:Peter Levashov is among the world’s top 10 worst spammers and is accused of hijacking computers to send e-mails advertising criminal schemes


A Russian programmer who claimed that he worked for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political party arrived in the US on Friday, after Spanish authorities extradited him to face cybercrime charges in Connecticut.

Peter Levashov was scheduled to appear in court the same day.

US prosecutors have been pursuing Levashov, who they have said operated under names including Peter Severa, for at least a decade.

He is among the top 10 worst spammers in the world, according to the Spamhaus Project, which tracks spam-related cyberthreats.

Levashov had resisted extradition since April last year, after he was arrested in Barcelona.

A US indictment unsealed that month accuses him of using malicious software to hijack computers worldwide to send e-mails advertising fake drugs, pump-and-dump penny-stock schemes and other frauds.

At a hearing in Spain in September last year, Levashov said he was a military officer who worked for a decade for Russia’s ruling United Russia party, collected information on opposition parties and “conveyed it to people who needed to know,” RIA Novosti reported at the time.

United Russia’s press office said that the claim was “nonsense” and Levashov was unknown to the party.

The extradition was approved in October last year by Spain’s National Court.

Russia had opposed moving Levashov to the US and filed a competing extradition request for an alleged crime that occurred in his home country.

The extradition “demonstrates the department’s steadfast commitment to working with our international law enforcement partners to identify cybercriminals and hold them accountable for their conduct,” Acting US Assistant Attorney General John Cronan said in a statement, referring to the US Department of Justice.

US prosecutors have said the case is not related to the alleged hacking of the 2016 US presidential election by Russia.

Prosecutors in Bridgeport, Connecticut, have said that Levashov used his Kelihos botnet to harvest personal information, user names and passwords.

He is accused of wire fraud, identity theft and conspiracy.

“During any 24-hour period, the Kelihos botnet was used to generate and distribute more than 2,500 unsolicited spam e-mails that advertised various criminal schemes, including deceptively promoting stocks in order to fraudulently increase their price,” the department said in April last year.

Spanish police said in a statement that they extradited a Russian citizen.

They did not give the man’s name, but said he is to face the same charges Levashov faces.

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