A Ukrainian national made his initial appearance today in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, after being extradited from Poland to face charges relating to a $10 million international money laundering operation, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina and Special Agent in Charge John A. Strong of the FBI’s Charlotte Division.
Viktor Chostak, 34, of Ukraine, along with three other individuals, are charged in a 25-count indictment with conspiracy to commit money laundering, eleven counts of money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, conspiracy to transport stolen property, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, four counts of transporting stolen property and six counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to a redacted version of the indictment unsealed today, beginning in September 2007, Chostak and three other conspirators were members of an international money laundering organization. The organization created and operated a sophisticated online infrastructure that allowed hackers to obtain and conceal stolen money, primarily from U.S. companies’ bank accounts, and transfer it to countries outside the United States. The organization created seemingly legitimate websites for fake companies, then sent spam emails advertising employment opportunities. When an individual responded to the spam solicitations, the organization put the applicant through what appeared to be a legitimate hiring process. The organization falsely represented that the individual’s job was to receive payments from businesses into their personal bank accounts, withdraw the money, then wire the funds to the company’s partners overseas. In reality, the individuals merely acted as money mules, processing hackers’ stolen proceeds and wiring them out of the country to other conspirators. The organization allegedly laundered at least $10 million in stolen money from the United States overseas.
According to the indictment, Chostak recruited, hired and managed others who oversaw the money mule operations. Chostak also allegedly worked with computer programmers to meet the needs of the organization’s online infrastructure.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Charlotte Division. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided assistance. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Jocelyn Aqua and Ryan K. Dickey of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Zolot of the Western District of North Carolina.