TARING alluringly into the camera with dazzling blue eyes and a rather daring outfit is the Russian student accused of a plot to defraud British and US banks of millions.
Kristina Svechinskaya, 21, has been dubbed the “world’s sexiest computer hacker” after being charged with being part of a gang aiming to steal $223 million. Wearing leather boots and skin-tight jeans, she wept during a court appearance this week. She was expected to appear in court again yesterday, charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and false use of passports. If convicted, she could be jailed for up to 40 years.
Thirty-seven people have been accused in New York over the alleged Eastern European-based plan to use an internet virus to siphon money from the online accounts of small businesses and individuals. Svechinskaya was one of four students at New York University said to have acted as “money mules” by opening hundreds of accounts.
Prosecutors claim she opened at least five bank accounts, which received $35,300 of the stolen money. British police also are investigating the fraud and arrested 11 Eastern Europeans in Essex last month. They have been charged with fraud and money-laundering offences over bank thefts amounting to $9.6 million. The FBI said some of the hundreds of bank accounts drained by the alleged fraudsters were held with London-based HSBC.
More suspects have been arrested in the Ukraine, leading federal officers to describe the case as “one of the largest cyber criminal cases” they have dealt with. The Eastern European gang made $3.2 million a month from online accounts by stealing victims’ log-in details. They used Trojan horse software, which can be bought for just $480 over the internet. According to the FBI, the ring managed to rake in about $64 million.