Roman Stepanenko 3W3RR/UB5JRR sentenced to 18 years
In 2001, a group of 150 Russian-speaking hackers gathered at a restaurant in Odessa to found CarderPlanet. It ultimately became one of the world’s most notorious fraudulent credit card data websites, and it was shut down in 2004.
On Thursday, one of the site’s founders, Roman Vega (aka “Boa”), was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a United States federal judge.
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Vega’s case has been going on for quite some time. The Ukrainian credit card fraudster was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted in Cyprus in 2003. Then, he was brought to the United States in 2004 to face federal charges in California, to which he pleaded guilty. By 2007, Vega faced fresh charges in New York. By early 2009, Vega pleaded guilty to those charges, but then he attempted to withdraw his plea in 2011. Various motions were filed, but by May 2012, the judge denied his request and his plea stood.
The long delay between his initial arrest and final sentencing could suggest a plea bargain of some kind between Vega and American authorities. In a 20-page sentencing recommendation letter (PDF) to the judge, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York recommended that Vega be given “at least 20 years” in prison.
“Today’s sentence is a significant milestone in our ongoing effort to aggressively target and dismantle global cybercrime organizations that operate from every corner of the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman in a statement. “Vega helped create one of the largest and most sophisticated credit card fraud sites in the cybercrime underworld—a distinction that has earned him the substantial sentence he received today.”
Prior to founding CarderPlanet, which ultimately reached approximately 6,000 members at its height, Vega also founded the Boa Factory in the late 1990s. According to Kevin Poulsen’s book, which details some of CarderPlanet's activities, a “full info”—which included not just a credit card number, but a name, address, social security number, mother’s maiden name—cost around $30.
CarderPlanet used mafia-style titles (PDF) to denote levels of access and control within the site. Godfather, the highest ranking, was held by only one person. The second-tier title, Don, was held by Vega and four others.
Vega has been continuously in custody since 2003.