23 September 2015 - 19:02

Former Moscow Five owner pleads guilty to role in one of the biggest-ever U.S. hacking cases

The founder of Russian esports franchise Moscow Five pleaded guilty to his involvement in a black market hacking ring last week
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The founder of Russian esports franchise Moscow Five pleaded guilty to his involvement in a black market hacking ring last week.

Dmitriy “ddd1ms” Smilianets, 32, reached a plea agreement admitting to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a federal court in Camden, New Jersey. He could serve up to 20 years in prison as part of his deal.

Smilianets was one of four Russians and one Ukrainian connected to a scheme that stole some 160 million credit and debit card numbers from 17 different companies, causing losses of hundreds of millions of dollars. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman called it the “largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States” when indictments were issued in 2013. Vladimir Drinkman, a hacker and Smilianets's friend, plead guilty to hacking and the same conspiracy charge a day before Smilianets. Their three alleged accomplices remain at large.

Smilianets served as broker for the stolen financial information while hackers like Drinkman stole the data. He charged $10 for American card numbers and $50 for European, even offering a discount to repeat buyers.

At the time, the U.S. Attorney working the case called it the “largest hacking and data breach scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.”

Smilianets was arrested with Drinkman in June 2012 while the two were vacationing in Amsterdam. At the time, the reason for the arrest was unclear to the gaming team he owned. One week later, the team learned that they had been detained at the request of the FBI as part of a cyber crimes investigation. Three months later, the two were extradited to the United States.

When Smilianets was arrested, it was at the height of Moscow Five’s success. The organization featured one of the most successful League of Legends teams ever at the time, hot off winning the IEM Season VI World Championship in March, a Dota 2 team that placed in the top six at the first The International in 2011, and a top level Counter-Strike team.

But after Smilianets’ arrest, things went downhill.

By the end of the year, Moscow Five was nearly defunct, unable to keep up with the expenses of running a world-class League of Legends team without its owner at the helm. Manager Konstantin “groove” Pikiner, who kept the organization running without Smilianets, decided to leave with the League team in tow and founded Gambit Gaming to compete in the inaugural season of the League of Legends Championship Series.

Over the past year, Moscow Five has seen a revival thanks to new Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm teams. It remains one of the most recognizable esports brands from Russia. But the organization’s former owner won’t be able to enjoy a renaissance for a long, long time.

Photo via team102.ru | H/T Bloomberg Business

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