A Russian-born hacker who took control of half a million computers and stole tens of thousands of credit card numbers was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison.
Alexander Tverdokhlebov, 29, said in federal court in Alexandria on Friday that he would “try to redeem myself.”
The Russian-born U.S. citizen spent almost a decade in Russian Internet forums where hackers form alliances and sell software and stolen information. To join, he had to get a current member to vouch for his criminal bona fides, prosecutors said.
Over the years, Tverdokhlebov put up for sale at least 40,000 stolen credit cards and control of 500,000 private computers through malicious software. He also hired two Russian students studying in the United States to cash out funds from a compromised bank account. He stole sensitive financial information from at least 100 people, prosecutors said.
Tverdokhlebov took in about $1 million in wire transfers from Russia and China. His bitcoin funds, which he agreed to forfeit to the government, are worth about $4.5 million.
He was arrested in California in February and pleaded guilty in March.
Before his arrest, he lived a lavish life in Los Angeles, prosecutors said, taking expensive vacations and driving a BMW. He kept $272,000 in cash in various safe-deposit boxes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a “rainy day.”
In court, Tverdokhlebov struggled to explain his actions.
“I had all the skills and all the resources to live the same lifestyle legally,” he said.
In a court filing, defense attorney William Cummings noted that his client was a regular user of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.
“You’re a talented young man,’ U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis said after sentencing Tverdokhlebov to 110 months in prison. “You never thought that you would be caught.”
Cummings, who had asked for a lighter sentence, said he understood the judge’s decision, given the amount of money involved. But he said he believed his client truly had “turned the corner.”
In fact, just before sentencing, Tverdokhlebov told prosecutors that he should be handing over more illicit profits than they had demanded.