An Estonian man on Friday (March 25) was sentenced to 66 months in prison for his role in a years-long scheme that included computer hacking, moving stolen goods and money and using stolen financial account information to make money, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release.
Maksim Berezan, 37, of Estonia, also participated in ransomware attacks that caused more than $53 million in losses. He was ordered to pay more than $36 million in restitution, the press release said.
Berezan was arrested in Latvia and extradited to the U.S., pleading guilty in April 2021 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and conspiracy to commit access device fraud and computer intrusions.
He was a member of an online forum for Russian-speaking cybercriminals to gather and exchange their criminal knowledge, tools and services from 2009 through 2015.
“This case is a prime example of how the Department of Justice can leverage its traditional tools — criminal investigations and prosecutions — to combat ransomware,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in the press release.
“Many of the world’s ransomware players began as fraudsters engaged in other types of online crimes, and this case demonstrates that their crimes will catch up to them,” he said. “The United States is committed to working with its international partners to hold cybercriminals accountable.”
The post-extradition investigation into Berezan determined that he had participated in at least 13 ransomware attacks, seven of which were against U.S. victims, and that about $11 million in ransom payments went into cryptocurrency wallets that he controlled.
He used the money to buy two Porsches, a Ducati motorcycle and an assortment of jewelry. In addition, authorities recovered from Berezan’s residence currency worth more than $200,000 and electronic devices storing passphrases to bitcoin wallets that contained bitcoin worth about $1.7 million.
Related: Russian Government Employees Charged in Worldwide Hacking Scheme
Earlier this week, four Russians employed by their government were charged with attempting, supporting and conducting cyber incursions in two separate conspiracies.
The U.S. Department of Justice alleged the defendants targeted the world’s energy sector from 2012 through 2018, using hacking campaigns aimed at thousands of computers in hundreds of companies and organizations, in more than 11 dozen countries.