Ukrainian National Sentenced to Over 13 Years for $700M Crypto Ransomware Scheme

News | May 17, 2024 By:

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Ukrainian national was sentenced to over 13 years in prison for his role in a massive $700 million ransomware scheme targeting over 2,500 victims globally.

Yaroslav Vasinskyi, 24, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and computer fraud charges for conducting thousands of ransomware attacks using the Sodinokibi/REvil malware variant. According to court documents, Vasinskyi worked with conspirators to encrypt victim computers and demand ransom payments, typically in cryptocurrency, in exchange for decryption keys. If victims refused to pay, the attackers would publicly disclose stolen confidential data from the victims.

The sophisticated ransomware attacks coordinated by Vasinskyi and his co-conspirators paralyzed many businesses and organizations. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the sentencing “shows the Justice Department is working with international partners and using all available tools to identify cybercriminals, seize their illicit profits in cryptocurrency and other funds, and hold them fully accountable.”

Through over two years of attacks, the REvil ransomware group launched a prolific criminal operation, threatening more than $700 million in ransom demands and actually receiving millions in cryptocurrency payments, according to prosecutors. In related civil cases, the Department of Justice seized over 39 bitcoins and $6.1 million in U.S. dollars directly tied to ransom payments.

The FBI investigation identified Vasinskyi as a direct participant in the REvil syndicate who helped develop the malware and coordinated the ransom negotiations. FBI Director Christopher Wray commented that the close collaboration with international law enforcement “ensured that a cybercriminal who thought he was beyond our reach faces the consequences.” Polish authorities had arrested and extradited Vasinskyi to Texas to face charges in the U.S.

Senior officials praised the prosecution as showcasing the global effort to dismantle ransomware networks. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said the case demonstrated that “the Justice Department’s reach is also global.” For U.S. Attorney Leigha Simonton of the Northern District of Texas, the outcome proves that “when you hit targets in the United States, the Justice Department and its partners will come after you.”

Going forward, the sentencing is intended to deter other cyber criminals engaging in ransomware schemes, according to DOJ leadership. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri labeled Vasinskyi’s activity “a reminder to ransomware actors everywhere: we will track you down and bring you to justice.”