LAS VEGAS -- A Ukrainian national extradited from Croatia and charged with federal racketeering as part of a reputed worldwide online marketplace for stolen personal and financial information operated by Carder.su pleaded not guilty Monday before a federal magistrate judge in Las Vegas, authorities said Thursday.
Sergei Litvinenko, 37, who arrived in Las Vegas Friday evening under U.S. Marshals Service escort, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Koope and is being held without bond. Attorney Charles Kelly was assigned to defend Litvinenko, one of 39 individuals indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas in January 2012.
Litvinenko is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 10. Among numerous co-defendants from Europe, he is the first to have been brought in from offshore for trial in this case.
An additional 16 individuals were also named in indictments connected to "Operation Open Market," a lengthy federal probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, and members of the former Las Vegas-based Southwestern Identity Theft and Fraud Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nevada.
Authorities believe that Carder.su, which was headed by Russians but based in Las Vegas, caused roughly $50 million in fraud to be committed globally through transactions that included phony credit cards and counterfeit personal identification documents. An alleged fellow member, David Camez of Phoenix, was found guilty of racketeering by a federal jury in Las Vegas in December.
Litvinenko is accused of one count of conspiracy to engage in a racketeer influenced corrupt organization in Nevada. The indictment alleged that he used the online nicknames "Dorbik" and "MatadOr" and was a vendor of "bullet proof hosting" services. The indictment stated that is a term used by carders to describe an internet service provider that will allow an individual to run a website that contains illegal content, such as a fake website used for phishing.
Litvinenko's extradition was the result of coordination among Homeland Security's attaché office in Vienna, Austria, the U.S. Secret Service attaché office in Rome, the U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs, Interpol, the Croatian Ministries of Justice and the Interior, and the Croatian State Prosecutor's Office.
Originally arrested by Croatian authorities in August 2012 based on the U.S. charges, a Croatian higher court cleared the way for Litvinenko's extradition last month.
"We owe a tremendous debt to the Croatian authorities for the extraordinary assistance they provided in this case," Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director James Dinkins said. "It's another powerful reminder that we won't allow our borders to be barriers to bringing international fugitives to justice."
Operation Open Market, which began in March 2007, targeted "carders" authorities believe were involved in large-scale trafficking of compromised credit card account data and counterfeit credit cards, as well as money laundering, narcotics trafficking and various types of computer crime. The organization operated a website forum, where members allegedly could purchase illicitly obtained data and share knowledge of various fraud schemes. A second forum was created to vet incoming new members.
The forums were generally hosted within the former Soviet Union where the upper echelon members of the organization resided. As of July 2011 there were more than 5,500 members.
Authorities determined that members of the organization included moderators who directed other members in carrying out activities, reviewers who examined and tested products, services and contraband, and vendors who advertised and sold products, services and contraband. Members were required to successfully complete a number of security features designed to protect the organization from infiltration by law enforcement or members of rival criminal organizations.