Russian gets 12 years in U.S. prison for role in hacking scheme

By Brendan Pierson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Russian citizen was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in a computer hacking scheme that compromised more than 160 million credit card numbers and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

Vladimir Drinkman, 37, was sentenced by before U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle in Camden, New Jersey federal court, according to U.S. prosecutors.

Drinkman was arrested in the Netherlands in June 2012 and extradited to the United States in February 2015. He pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to illegally access computers and conspiring to commit wire fraud in September 2015.

Another Russian man who was arrested along with Drinkman, Dmitriy Smilianets, was sentenced by Simandle on Wednesday to time served. Smilianets, 34, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud in September 2015.

Lawyers for Drinkman and Smilianets could not immediately be reached for comment.

Prosecutors said the two men were part of a hacking scheme as far back as 2003 in which they helped install "sniffers" designed to comb through and steal data from computer networks of financial companies, payment processors and retailers.

Prosecutors said the defendants then used an array of computers to store and ultimately sell data they collected, fetching $10 to $50 apiece for credit card numbers depending on country of origin.

The scheme ultimately caused banks and credit card companies to suffer hundreds of millions in losses, including more than $300 million reported by three companies alone, prosecutors said.

Sixteen companies' networks were infiltrated, including those of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc, 7-Eleven [SILC.UL], France’s Carrefour SA, JC Penney Co, JetBlue Airways Corp and Heartland Payment Systems Inc, according to prosecutors.

Drinkman was originally charged as an unnamed defendant in a 2009 indictment accusing Albert Gonzalez of Miami over his involvement in five corporate data breaches. Gonzalez is serving a 20-year federal prison term.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York, editing by G Crosse)

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