A New York City man was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts for conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, trafficking in stolen payment card numbers, and money laundering. The suspected hacker allegedly hacked websites, stole credentials, and offered them for sale on the internet.
According to the indictment, Vitalii Antonenko, a 28-year-old Ukraine national, conspired with at least two other defendants to access to vulnerable computer networks. They often exploited these vulnerable networks through SQL injection. After gaining access to the networks, Antonenko stole credentials stored in the systems including credit and debit cards numbers. He then put up the credentials for sale on undisclosed carding platforms. After selling the stolen credentials, Antonenko received payments in bitcoin and used an unlicensed bitcoin exchange operated by one of his co-conspirators to launder the proceeds.
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Antonenko was linked to carding after the takedown of Liberty Reserve in May 2013. Liberty Reserve was a cryptocurrency exchange platform that allowed people to send and receive payments “anonymously.” The data acquired from the investigation showed that Antonenko used his Gmail email address to open an account at Liberty reserve in October 2012. Antonenko’s account reportedly received more than $15,539 from an account held by a carding platform. Using the information from the investigation, investigators with the United States Secret Service (USSS) began analyzing bitcoin addresses associated with Antonenko.
From June 2015 to September 2017, a USSS undercover agent used bitcoin to purchase stolen credentials of more than 450 victims from an unnamed carding platform. After making the purchases, the USSS investigators used blockchain analysis to identify three bitcoin wallets controlled by the administrators of the carding platform.
While analyzing Antonenko’s bitcoin wallets, the investigators reportedly established that Antonenko had been receiving bitcoins from the carding platform from September 2013 through May 2017. After receiving the payments Antonenko, reportedly sent the bitcoin to one of his co-conspirators and to his own BTC-e wallet. The co-conspirator then, in exchange for the bitcoin, gave Antonenko cash in person or deposited the cash into accounts controlled by Antonenko or his partners.
The co-conspirator Antonenko used to cash out the bitcoin was arrested in a separate investigation and her diary and financial ledger seized. From the records, the investigators established that Antonenko sold bitcoin at a 9 to 10 percent discount below market price. The co-conspirator was subsequently imprisoned after pleading guilty to operating an unlicensed money transmitting business and money laundering.
The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts issued an arrest warrant for Antonenko on February 26, 2019. On March 2, 2019, Antonenko was arrested and detained on money laundering charges at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York after he arrived from Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of stolen credentials were reportedly found in his possession.
On May 26, 2020, Antonenko was indicted on one count of conspiracy to gain unauthorized access to computer networks to traffic in unauthorized access devices, and one count of money laundering conspiracy.
If convicted for the hacking charge Antonenko, could be sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, restitution and forfeiture. If convicted for the money laundering charge, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $500,000 fine, restitution and forfeiture.