Bulgaria extradites Russian to US to face cybercrime charges in ‘Methbot’ case

Bulgaria has extradited to the United States a Russian national, Alexander Zhukov, alleged to have been the ringleader in a cybercrime scheme involving fraud of millions of dollars through a fake online advertising scheme.

Zhukov was indicted on November 27 2018 along with seven others, in the United States District Court Eastern District of New York. The other accused are Boris Timokhin, Mikhail Andreyev, Denis Avdeyev, Dmitry Novikov, and Alexander Isayev of Russia, and Sergei Ovsyannikov and Yevgeny Timchenko of Kazakhstan.

Zhukov appeared in the District Court in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna in November after the US applied for his extradition. Zhukov told the court at the time that he had been in Bulgaria for eight years, four as a permanent resident.

Extradited from Bulgaria to the US, he appeared in the court in Brooklyn on January 18 2019 and entered a plea of not guilty.

According to the indictment in the US court, which described the scheme as having begun some time around September 2014 and continued to December 2016, Zhukov led the development of the data centre-based scheme. He served as the chief executive of Ad Network #1, a private corporation owned by him with offices in Russia and Bulgaria.

Ad Network #1 purported to assist customers with delivering advertisements to real human internet users via its ad network.

Ad Network #1 had business arrangements with other advertising networks that enabled it to receive payment in return for placing advertising placeholders (“ad tags”) with publishers on behalf of those advertising networks, the indictment said.

“Rather than place these ad tags on real publishers’ webpages, however, Zhukov and others rented more than 1900 computer servers located at commercial datacenters in Dallas, Texas, and elsewhere, and used those datacenter computer servers to simulate humans viewing ads on fabricated webpages.

“By these means, the Methbot defendants caused thousands of datacenter computer servers to load fabricated webpages, offer up the advertising space on the fabricated webpages for bidding, and load advertisements on the fabricated webpages through an automated computer program. This activity (the “fraudulent ad traffic”) was not viewed by any real human internet users.”

The Russian consulate general in New York said in a media statement that Zhukov was being held in custody in Brooklyn.

“In the near future, the staff of the Russian Consulate General in New York will visit the compatriot in prison. He will be rendered all necessary consular assistance,” the statement said.

(Photo: jainapoorv/freeimages.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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