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Israel

Russian pleads guilty to US fraud in case linked to fate of Israeli backpacker

A Russian national pleaded guilty Thursday to running a website that helped people commit more than $20 million in credit-card fraud.

Aleksey Burkov, 29, of St. Petersburg, Russia, entered the plea to charges including fraud and money laundering in a federal court in Alexandria.

He was extradited to the US from Israel in November over the objection of Russian officials.

His fate is believed to be linked to Russia’s sentencing last year of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, 26, to seven and a half years in prison for drug offenses.

Israeli-American Naama Issachar, jailed for drug smuggling, attends her appeal hearing at the Moscow Regional Court on December 19, 2019. (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Israeli officials have decried Issachar’s sentence as disproportionate and appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for her release.

Issachar’s mother on Thursday met with Putin in Jerusalem and later said the Russian leader told her he would return her daughter home.

Reports in Hebrew-language media have said Israeli officials believe Burkov may be connected to Russian intelligence. Burkov, in an interview with Channel 13, denied any such involvement.

Israeli officials told Hebrew media in November that Jerusalem turned down an offer by Moscow to swap Burkov for Issachar.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, smile as Yaffa Issachar, second left, the mother of Naama Issachar, who is imprisoned in Russia, shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020, ahead of the World Holocaust Forum. (Heidi Levine/Pool/AFP)

An indictment accused Burkov of running a website called Cardplanet that let people buy stolen credit-card numbers for anywhere from $3 to $60. People used the numbers to make more than $20 million in fraudulent purchases.

Prosecutors say Burkov even offered a money-back guarantee if a stolen card number no longer worked.

In court Thursday, Burkov admitted to running a second website on an invite-only basis that allowed cyber criminals to sell stolen data.

Burkov faces a prison sentence of up to 15 years at his May 8 sentencing.

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