The son of a Russian legislator has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for a credit card scam that culled $169 million from thousands of businesses around the world, including City Newsstand, 4018 N. Cicero Ave., prosecutors announced last week.
As part of an international hacking scheme in 2010, 32-year-old Roman Valeryevich Seleznev stole more than 1,000 credit card numbers from the Portage Park bookstore, which also has a location in suburban Evanston.
A federal judge in Seattle ruled last week that City Newsstand is owed about $21,000, according to owner Joe Angelastri.
After Seleznev installed a malicious program on the independent store’s computer system, Angelastri was forced to pay thousands of dollars in banking fees, he said. Even more costly was the cybersecurity team he had to hire to rebuild the network from the ground up.
“That really hurt us. We had to put it on a line of credit that we’re still paying off today,” he said. “It took hours and hours of our time to prevent it from happening again, and customers still didn’t want to use credit cards with us afterward.”
City Newsstand was one of more than 500 American businesses targeted by Seleznev between 2009 and 2013, prosecutors said. The cyberthief, whose father is a member of the Russian parliament and a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested in the Maldives in July 2014 with 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers on his laptop.
“Today is a bad day for hackers around the world,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes wrote in an April 21 statement. “The notion that the internet is a Wild West where anything goes is a thing of the past.”
Angelastri called it a “long shot” that Seleznev, now sitting in federal prison, would be able to pay back the millions he owes businesses all over the world. But the store owner counted last week’s ruling as a vindication for his business after the embarrassing ordeal, he said.
“It feels very good to know that the Justice Department went through on this and actually got the right person,” said Angelastri, who flew to Seattle to testify last year. “When we learned [Seleznev] was in Russia, we thought it was virtually impossible that he’d get caught. I’m impressed at the lengths they went to bring him in.”
Russian officials denied Seleznev’s guilt and condemned his arrest as a “kidnapping,” according to the New York Times.