Russian National Charged in Payment Card SchemeDoJ Says Aleksey Burkov, Who Was Extradited This Week, Ran 'Cardplanet' Site
The U.S. Justice Department Tuesday unsealed an indictment charging Russian national Aleksey Burkov with running an underground site called "Cardplanet" that acted as a clearinghouse for stolen payment card data. Burkov arrived in the U.S. Tuesday after being extradited by Israel.
Between 2009 and 2013, the Cardplanet site trafficked in more than 150,000 stolen credit and debit cards, mainly issued through U.S. banks and financial institutions, according to the federal indictment. Prosecutors estimate that more than $20 million in fraudulent purchases were made using those cards.
Burkov, 29, faces multiple charges, including wire fraud, access device fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, computer intrusions, identity theft and money laundering. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 80 years in prison.
Burkov is being held in federal custody without bail, with a detention hearing set for Friday, according to court records. His court appointed attorney, Gregory Stambaugh, declined to comment.
The long-running case against Bukov involves international intrigue between the U.S., Israel and Russia (see: 'Soviet Tactics': Russia Tries Prisoner Swap for Hacker).
Before the U.S. indictment against Burkov was unsealed Tuesday, news reports from Israel described how Russian officials attempted to swap Israeli citizen Naama Issachar, 26, who is being held in Russia on marijuana possession charges, for Bukov, who has been detained in Israel since 2015. Russia does not want its citizens sent to other countries - especially the U.S. - to face computer crime and hacking charges.
Russian officials, according to news media reports, also wanted Burkov to return home to face different criminal charges there. After a long court battle, the Israeli government signed extradition papers earlier this month to send Burkov to the U.S. to face the charges, according to media reports.
Federal prosecutors allege that between 2009 and 2013, Burkov, who is described as a IT specialist from Saint Petersburg, operated the Cardplanet site, which trafficked in stolen credit and debit data, which included the account holder's name, account number, card verification value number and expiration date.
The site acted as a clearinghouse, with cybercriminals buying and selling this stolen information, according to the indictment. Prosecutors allege that Burkov advertised the Cardplanet services on various underground forums, especially Russian-language sites; the site was hosted on a server located in Virginia.
Depending on where the cards were issued, as well as the personal information of the card holder, the data could sell for between $2.50 and $60 for each card, according to the indictment. Burkov, who paid close attention to customer service for clients, also allegedly developed a "checker," which could validate the stolen credentials for buyers, and the site even offered a refund policy if the stolen cards didn't work, prosecutors say.
In most cases, cybercriminals used the stolen data to make purchases from stores and online e-commerce sites, resulting in about $20 million in fraudulent purchases over four years, according to the indictment. Because the Cardplanet site operated before the popularity of bitcoin, Burkov accepted payments in the form of digital currency such as Liberty Reserve or WebMoney as well as conventional payments from Western Union, according to the indictment.
Federal prosecutors also allege that Burkov ran another cybercriminal forum - an invitation-only site where cybercriminals would plan various crimes, buy and sell stolen data and malicious tools, and exchange services for other hackers, such as money laundering.
Unlike Cardplanet, which was public-facing, the second site operated in secret, prosecutors allege.
"To obtain membership in Burkov's cybercrime forum, prospective members needed three existing members to 'vouch' for their good reputation among cybercriminals and to provide a sum of money, normally $5,000, as insurance," according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, which is overseeing the case. "These measures allegedly were designed to keep law enforcement from accessing Burkov's cybercrime forum and to ensure that members of the forum honored any deals made while conducting business on the forum."
Although Cardplanet closed in 2013, Burkov remained free for two years until he posted a photo of himself in Thailand, which brought him the attention of the U.S. Secret Service, according to a report in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper.
Later, a U.S. grand jury indicted Burkov on various charges that remained sealed, and a warrant was later issued by Interpol. When he crossed from Egypt into Israel in 2015, Burkov was arrested by police, and he was detained there until this week, according to Haaretz.