U.S. Court Sentences Russian Hacker to 12 Years for Credit Card Theft

A Russian citizen was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in a computer hacking scheme that compromised more than 160 million credit card numbers and caused around $311 million in damages, NJ.com reports.

Vladimir Drinkman, 37, of Syktyvkar, Russia, who was arrested in the Netherlands in 2012 but fought extradition for more than three years before he was brought to New Jersey to face criminal charges, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access of protected computers and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Another Russian man who was arrested along with Drinkman, 34-year-old Dmitriy Smilianets, of Moscow, who has been in federal custody since June 2012, after he was also arrested in Amsterdam while vacationing and did not fight his extradition to New Jersey, was sentenced to the time he has already served. He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a manner affecting a financial institution.

Prosecutors said the two men were part of a hacking scheme as far back as 2003 in which they helped install “sniffers” designed to comb through and steal data from computer networks of financial companies, payment processors and retailers.

Prosecutors also said the defendants used an array of computers to store and then sell data they collected, fetching $10 to $50 apiece for credit card numbers depending on country of origin.

The scheme ultimately caused banks and credit card companies to suffer hundreds of millions in losses, including more than $300 million reported by three companies alone, prosecutors said.

Sixteen companies’ networks were infiltrated, including those of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc, 7-Eleven [SILC.UL], France’s Carrefour SA, JC Penney Co, JetBlue Airways Corp and Heartland Payment Systems Inc, according to prosecutors.

Drinkman was originally charged as an unnamed defendant in a 2009 indictment accusing Albert Gonzalez of Miami over his involvement in five corporate data breaches. Gonzalez is serving a 20-year federal prison term.