Bulgarian National Charged In Largest Identity Theft Ring Of Its Time Extradited To Face Indictment In NJ

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NEWARK– A 30-year-old Bulgarian national appeared in federal court in Newark Monday  after being extradited from Paraguay to face U.S. charges he participated in the Shadowcrew forum, an online marketplace for hacking and identity theft that was the largest of its kind when dismantled by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Secret Service in 2004, New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Aleksi Kolarov, 30, evaded capture until June 14, 2011, when Paraguayan law enforcement authorities arrested him at a hotel in Asunción, Paraguay. He was found in possession of hundreds of thousands of dollars in various currencies, counterfeit payment cards and electronic implements to re-encode cards. He has been incarcerated by Paraguayan authorities since that time relating to that conduct.

The U.S. indictment charges Kolarov with one count each of conspiracy, transferring false identification documents and offering access devices without authorization. He arrived in the United States on Friday, June 28, escorted by U.S. Marshals, and was held in federal custody over the weekend.

“Aleksi Kolorov is charged with conspiring in the most notorious online cybercrime marketplace of its time, selling the means to steal money and identities to other criminals,” Fishman said. “This extradition shows that hiding behind computers and borders does not deter us. It is vital that law enforcement work internationally to bring cybercriminals to justice, no matter how long it takes.”

“The arrest and extradition of Aleksi Kolarov to the United States demonstrates the outstanding investigative abilities and steadfast commitment of the Secret Service to protect our nation’s financial infrastructure from unlawful acts committed by cyber-criminals on our homeland,” said Special Agent in Charge James Mottola of the U.S. Secret Service, Newark Field Office. “The successful apprehension of suspects is due to the superior efforts our special agents and participating members of the electronic crimes task forces which include federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, private industry and academia.”

According to the indictment:

Shadowcrew.com was an illegal online marketplace that trafficked in at least 1.5 million stolen credit and bank card numbers and caused more than $4 million in losses to the institutions issuing the cards.

Kolarov, along with the other 18 individuals charged in the indictment, allegedly participated in the international conspiracy to operate the Shadowcrew site. As an alleged member of the organization, Kolarov served as a vendor, using the site to sell illicit merchandise and services to other members. At one time, Shadowcrew.com had approximately 4,000 members dedicated to facilitating malicious computer hacking and the dissemination of stolen credit card, debit card and bank account numbers and counterfeit identification documents, such as drivers’ licenses, passports and Social Security cards. The conspiracy to commit this activity, often referred to as “carding,” facilitated the use of account numbers and counterfeit identity documents to steal identities and defraud banks and retailers.

Of the 19 international participants charged in the indictment, only three remain at large.

If convicted, Kolarov faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy count, 15 years in prison on the identification documents count and 10 years in prison on the access device count. Each count also carries a maximum $250,000 fine, or twice the gross amount of pecuniary gain or loss resulting from the offense.

Fishman credited the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mottola, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also noted the valuable contributions of the Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section and Office of International Affairs in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and thanked the U.S. Marshals Service for facilitating the extradition. Fishman also praised the Paraguayan authorities for their vital role.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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