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Prosecutors say alleged Russian hacker has money for lawyer

January 16, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) — Prosecutors filed a motion saying a Russian man accused of hacking into U.S. businesses has plenty of assets to cover his defense, including piles of cash, expensive cars and property in at least three countries, after a federal judge on Thursday appointed a public defender to represent him.

Roman Seleznev and his two private lawyers had asked U.S. District Judge Richard Jones to allow the lawyers to withdraw from the case for undisclosed reasons. Jones signed an order saying Seleznev’s sworn financial statement shows he can’t afford a lawyer, and he appointed a public defender.

Federal prosecutors quickly responded with a motion saying they have evidence showing Seleznev made millions during his alleged computer hacking and credit-card stealing exploits. They said his financial affidavit does not provide “sufficient accurate financial information to permit a finding that he lacks the ability to pay for counsel.”

Seleznev’s new lawyer, Federal Public Defender Russell Leonard, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Seleznev was arrested in the Maldives in July. He faces 40 felony counts, including hacking, identity theft and wire fraud. Prosecutors say he hacked into the computer systems of restaurants and businesses and stole about two million credit card numbers.

Seleznev was living an extravagant lifestyle before his arrest, prosecutors said Thursday.

The government’s investigation found two Seleznev bank accounts that received $17.8 million for selling the stolen credit card data, their motion said. A search of Seleznev’s iPhone found photos of piles of cash in a bank teller’s window, and another photo of bundles of cash in the back seat of a car, it said. Seleznev also had pictures of his high-end automobiles, according to the motion.

Prosecutors said Seleznev owns property in Vladivostok, Russia, Indonesia and Bali, and he paid $20,924 for hotel expenses in the Maldives where he was arrested. One of his credit cards showed he spent more than $130,000 on personal expenses between December 2012 and July 2014, including $40,000 on air travel and $22,000 on hotels. He also paid $790,000 in U.S. dollars for two apartments in Bali, the motion said.

“Even if the value of those properties has substantially diminished, they alone should be more than sufficient to provide funding for defense counsel,” the motion said. “The evidence discussed above establishes that defendant does have the ability to pay. The government should not pay for the legal representation of a person who owns real property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Prosecutors asked the judge to order Seleznev to repay the public defender’s office for costs of a court-appointed lawyer.

His trial is set for May 4.


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