A Russian man who U.S. prosecutors called one of the world’s most notorious criminal email spammers was arrested in Spain last week.
Peter Levashov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, used fraudulent emails to hack into email and bank accounts of thousands of Americans, federal prosecutors said Monday in a statement announcing his arrest. They said he also operated under the name Peter Severa, who is No. 6 on the top 10 list of the world’s worst spammers, a list maintained by the antispam organization Spamhaus.
U.S. prosecutors said Levashov distributed computer malware generating huge volumes of spam emails to advertise fake drugs, pump-and-dump penny stock schemes, work-at-home scams and other frauds. He linked as many as 100,000 computers around the world into a botnet using malware known as Kelihos, they said.
“The ability of botnets like Kelihos to be weaponized quickly for vast and varied types of harms is a dangerous and deep threat to all Americans, driving at the core of how we communicate, network, earn a living and live our everyday lives,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in the statement.
Alexander Ionov, a human rights lawyer who is helping Levashov, said his client was arrested in Spain at the request of the U.S., and that the Justice Department hadn’t followed international norms or consulted with Russia on the case.
“By arresting Russians abroad, the U.S. is circumventing all international procedures,” Ionov said. “Levashov wasn’t included in Interpol or FBI wanted lists.”