Jurors have begun deliberating in the federal-court trial of alleged Russian hacker Roman Seleznev, who is charged in a 40-count indictment with wire fraud and other counts.
At the start of the trial of accused Russian hacker Roman Seleznev, defense attorney John Henry Browne told jurors he was under no obligation to put on a case and would depend “almost entirely” on his cross examination of government witnesses.
That’s precisely what happened during the 1½-week trial in U.S. District Court in Seattle before it was placed in the hands of jurors Wednesday
Browne called only one witness: a computer expert who testified that Seleznev’s laptop was accessed while it was stored at a Secret Service office and contended that federal agents tampered with the computer after Seleznev’s July 2014 arrest.
An expert for the government, however, testified that the only activity that occurred on the laptop was routine anti-virus and software maintenance.
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Seleznev is accused of stealing thousands of credit-card numbers by planting malicious software, or “malware,” on commercial-business computers, including restaurants in Washington, according to court documents and news accounts. They allege he then sold the numbers on the internet black market, costing credit-card companies nearly $170 million.
Seleznev, the son of a member of the Russian Parliament, is charged in a 40-count indictment with wire fraud and a series of counts involving damaging protected computers and aggravated identity theft.
Each count of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two-year sentence, prosecutors said.
When he was arrested two years ago in the Maldives, Seleznev’s laptop computer contained 1.7 million stolen credit-card numbers, according to the government.
In his closing argument Wednesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Barbosa said that three pieces of damning evidence were found on Seleznev’s laptop and they didn’t “magically jump on this computer.”
Barbosa said those three things — the credit-card numbers, evidence that Seleznev searched online court records to see whether the U.S. was investigating him and a password cheat sheet that linked Seleznev to a decade’s worth of criminal hacking — was enough to convict him.
“This defendant was prowling the internet at night looking for doors he could pry open,” Barbosa said.
Emma Scanlon, one of Seleznev’s attorneys, criticized the government investigation and prosecution as having “a certain arrogance,” relying on evidence that came solely from cyberspace.
Where, she asked, was the physical evidence connecting Seleznev to the alleged crimes?
Why didn’t prosecutors have a photo of Seleznev with a computer? Why didn’t federal agents speak with the woman Seleznev was with during his arrest? Why didn’t investigators speak with at least a sampling of the people whose credit-card information was stolen?
The government has said Seleznev was identified as a suspect in a series of business-computer hacks in 2010 after a Secret Service task force linked computer intrusions at restaurants in Idaho and Washington, including the former Broadway Grill on Capitol Hill, to a mysterious email address and website in Russia.
Browne, the defense attorney, has alleged federal agents tampered with Seleznev’s laptop after his arrest. He unsuccessfully sought to suppress key evidence citing that alleged intrusion.
In his response to Scanlon’s closing argument, prosecutor Harold Chun showed pictures from Seleznev’s iPhone that showed pictures of Seleznev’s own computer screen, his passport and selfies.
“I can understand why he wants to shy away from that computer,” Chun said, “but it’s his.”