A Seattle jury convicted Roman Seleznev of stealing millions of credit-card numbers from U.S. businesses, including restaurants in Washington.

Share story

A Seattle jury has convicted the son of a prominent Russian lawmaker of hacking into U.S. businesses, including restaurants in Washington, to steal millions of credit-card numbers that were resold on the black market.

Roman Seleznev was convicted Thursday of 38 of 40 criminal counts, including 10 counts of wire fraud, nine counts of obtaining information from a protected computer and two counts of aggravated identity theft, after a 1½-week trial in U.S. District Court. He was also convicted of nine counts of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and eight counts of intentional damage to a protected computer.

The two not-guilty verdicts were related to the alleged hacking of a Duvall pizzeria.

Jurors deliberated for about a day before reaching a verdict.

Seleznev could face up to 34 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 2.

However, defense attorney John Henry Browne said he is more likely to face a sentence range of eight to 12 years, in keeping with sentences for those convicted of similar crimes.

Seleznev was accused of stealing credit-card numbers by planting malicious software, or “malware,” on commercial-business computers. He then sold the numbers on the black market, costing credit-card companies nearly $170 million, according to federal prosecutors.

Seleznev, the son of a member of the Russian Parliament, was identified as a suspect in the hacks in 2010 after a Secret Service task force linked computer intrusions at restaurants in Washington and Idaho, including several in the Seattle area, to a mysterious email address and website in Russia.

According to the government, Seleznev’s laptop computer, seized during his July 2014 arrest in the Maldives, contained 1.7 million stolen credit-card numbers.

During the trial, the defense called only one witness: a computer expert who testified that Seleznev’s laptop was accessed while it was stored at a Secret Service office. Browne contended that federal agents tampered with the computer after Seleznev’s arrest.

Earlier, Browne unsuccessfully sought to suppress key evidence, citing that alleged intrusion.

An expert for the government, however, testified that the only activity that occurred on the laptop was routine anti-virus and software maintenance.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Norm Barbosa said three pieces of damning evidence were found on Seleznev’s laptop: the stolen credit-card numbers, evidence that Seleznev had searched online court records to see whether he was under investigation, and a password cheat sheet that linked Seleznev to a decade’s worth of criminal hacking. Barbosa told jurors Seleznev “was prowling the internet at night looking for doors he could pry open.”

Emma Scanlon, defense co-counsel, said prosecutors based their case solely on evidence that came from cyberspace. Where, she asked, was the physical evidence connecting Seleznev to the alleged crimes?

Seleznev was under U.S. indictment when he was arrested as he and his girlfriend arrived at the Maldives airport on their way back to Russia. Although the Maldives does not have a treaty with the United States, its government agreed to cooperate with investigators here, and Seleznev was extradited to Seattle.

The Russian government has protested Seleznev’s arrest as a U.S. kidnapping. He is the son of Valery Seleznev, a prominent member of the Russian Federation Parliament and an ally of President Vladimir Putin.

The elder Seleznev insisted in an interview that his son was innocent and had only average computer skills after he was disabled in an April 2011 terrorist bombing in Morocco. He also said his son’s arrest may have been retaliation for Russia’s harboring of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Last year, federal prosecutors accused Seleznev and his father of plotting to tamper with witnesses and possibly discussing an escape from the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. The assertions were based on recorded conversations, according to the government.

Browne, the defense attorney, said Thursday that Seleznev will appeal the verdict and that part of the defense strategy during trial was to lay the grounds for an appeal.

“One of the main issues on appeal is the manner in which he was kidnapped, which was against international law and against our law and was offensive to me,” Browne said.

Browne said Seleznev is also facing similar charges in Nevada and Georgia, but he said the sentence he is facing in Washington is likely long enough that it might “satisfy” the other states.