The Latvian Police played a leading role in the fight against...

The Latvian Police played a leading role in the fight against...
The Latvian Police played a leading role in the fight against...

The Latvian Police played a leading role in a major international operation to break through a large-scale ring of organized cybercrime.

The news came through the US Department of Justice, which issued a press release on October 15, announcing that raids around the world targeted a multi-million dollar money laundering operation by a group called “QQAAZZ” with close ties to Latvia.

“Fourteen members of the transnational criminal organization QQAAZZ were charged by a federal grand jury in the western district of Pennsylvania on a today unsealed charge. An indictment, unsealed in October 2019, charged five QQAAZZ members. Another conspirator, a Russian national, was arrested by a criminal complaint in late March 2020 while visiting the United States, bringing the total number of defendants charged to 20. Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Department of Justice’s Department of Criminal Investigation and Attorney General Scott W. Brady for Western District of Pennsylvania announced the announcement today, “the news release said.

“QQAAZZ members, who trade alongside cyber criminals around the world, are charged with conspiring to launder money stolen from computer fraud victims in the US and elsewhere. More than 40 house searches were carried out in Latvia, Bulgaria and Great Britain. Spain and Italy, with prosecution in the United States, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. ”

Most of the searches and arrests in Latvia were carried out by the Latvian State Police (Latvian State Police) and extensive Bitcoin mining associated with the group has been seized in Bulgaria.

“This was a comprehensive investigation that had implications for the whole world,” said Michael Christman, the FBI special agent in charge in Pittsburgh. “Partnerships are essential as no agency can tackle cybercrime on its own. This case underscores the FBI’s strategy of targeting and dismantling key cybercriminals through a global task force approach. I can assure everyone that the FBI and our partners will continue to work tirelessly to combat these cyber threats. ”

“This is the first operation of its kind that has carried out so many searches and arrests in multiple countries at the same time. The key was to act at the same time as the members of the organized crime group communicated with each other and with us. It could not be allowed that information between them was lost and all electronic evidence was deleted, ”said Dmitrijs Homenko, head of the Cybercrime Unit of the Latvian State Police.

The indictment alleges that the QQAAZZ network has laundered or attempted to launder tens of millions of dollars worth of stolen funds from victims of cybercrime since 2016.

The QQAAZZ network, composed of multiple layers of members from Latvia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Belgium, opened and maintained hundreds of corporate and private bank accounts with financial institutions around the world in order to obtain money from cyber criminals who stole it have bank accounts of victims. The funds were then transferred to other bank accounts controlled by QQAAZZ and sometimes converted into cryptocurrency using “tumbling” services designed to hide the original source of the funds. After QQAAZZ charged a fee of up to 40 to 50 percent, it allegedly returned the remaining amount of the stolen funds to its cyber criminals.

QQAAZZ members secured these bank accounts by using both legitimate and fraudulent Polish and Bulgarian identification documents to set up and register dozens of Shell companies that were not doing legitimate business. Using these registration documents, the QQAAZZ members then opened corporate accounts on behalf of the Shell companies at numerous financial institutions around the world, generating hundreds of QQAAZZ-controlled bank accounts that the US authorities believe can receive stolen money from cyber thieves.

QQAAZZ advertised its services on Russian-language online cybercriminal forums, where cybercriminals gather to offer or seek specific skills or services that are required for a variety of cybercriminal activities. The criminal gangs behind some of the world’s most harmful malware families (z.B: Dridex, Trickbot, GozNym, etc.) are among the cyber criminals who have benefited from the services of QQAAZZ.

Of the 14 defendants named in the unsealed indictment on October 15, half are Latvian residents:

  1. Nika Nazarovi, alias Nika Utiashvili, alias Mikhail Atansov, alias Stefan Trifonov Zhelyazkov, 32, from Georgia;
  2. Martins Ignatievs, alias “Yordan Angelov Stoyanov”, alias “Alexander Tikhomirov”, alias “Svetlin Iliyanov Asenov”, 33, from Latvia;
  3. Aleksandre Kobiashvili, alias “Antonios Nastas”, alias “Ognyan Krasimirov Trifonov”, 32, from Georgia;
  4. Dmitrijs Kuzminovs, alias Parush Gospodinov Genchev, 35, from Latvia;
  5. Valentins Sevecs, alias “Marek Jaswilko”, alias “Rafal Szczytko”, 32, aus Lettland;
  6. Dmitrijs Slapins, 35, from Latvia;
  7. Armens Vecels, 24, from Latvia;
  8. Artiom Capacli, 31, from Bulgaria;
  9. Ion Cebanu, 26, from Romania;
  10. Thomas Trescinkas, 25, from Latvia;
  11. Ruslans Sarapovs, 19, from Latvia;
  12. Silvestrs Tamenieks, 21, from Latvia;
  13. Abdelhak Hamdaoui, 48, from Belgium; and
  14. Petar Iliev, 37, from Bulgaria.

Of the five defendants charged in the October 2019 unsealed indictment, all are Latvian residents:

  1. Aleksejs Trofimovics, alias “Aleksejs Trofimovich”, alias “Alexey Trofimovich”, alias “Aleko Stoyanov Angelov”, 24, from Latvia;
  2. Ruslans Nikitenko, alias “Krzysztof Wojciech Lewko”, alias “Milen Nikolchev Nikolov”, alias “Rafal Zimnoch”, 41, aus Lettland;
  3. Arturs Zaharevics, alias “Piotr Ginelli”, alias “Arkadiusz Szuberski”, 33, aus Lettland;
  4. Deniss Ruseckis, alias “Denis Rusetsky”, alias “Sevdelin Sevdalinov Atanasov”, 24, from Latvia; and
  5. Deinis Gorenko, 25, from Latvia.

The Russian citizen who was charged with criminal charges and arrested during a visit to the USA at the end of March 2020 is Maksim Boiko, aka “Maxim Boyko”, aka “Gangass”, 30, from Russia.

US victims whose funds have been stolen or intended to be stolen from their online bank accounts (including banks headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) and destined for QQAAZZ-controlled overseas bank accounts include an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in Brooklyn , New York, a medical device manufacturer in Pennsylvania, an architectural firm in Miami, Florida, and various other companies.

An indictment is an indictment. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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