Criminal Justice News

Friday, April 21, 2017

Russian National Indicted with Multiple Offenses in Connection with Kelihos Botnet

A federal grand jury in Bridgeport, Connecticut, returned an eight-count indictment yesterday charging a Russian National with multiple offenses stemming from his alleged operation of the Kelihos botnet – a global network of tens of thousands of infected computers, which he allegedly used to facilitate malicious activities including harvesting login credentials, distributing bulk spam e-mails, and installing ransomware and other malicious software.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly of the District of Connecticut and Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick of the FBI’s New Haven Division made the announcement.

Peter Yuryevich Levashov, 36, aka Petr Levashov, Peter Severa, Petr Severa and Sergey Astakhov, of St. Petersburg, Russia, was charged in an indictment returned in the District of Connecticut with one count of causing intentional damage to a protected computer, one count of conspiracy, one count of accessing protected computers in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud, one count of threatening to damage a protected computer, two counts of fraud in connection with email and one count of aggravated identity theft. The case has been assigned to Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford.

Spanish authorities arrested Levashov in Barcelona on April 7, 2017. The arrest was based upon a criminal complaint and arrest warrant issued in the District of Connecticut on March 24, 2017. Levashov has been detained since his arrest, and the Justice Department is seeking his extradition.

As alleged in the indictment, a “botnet” is a network of computers infected with a malicious software that allows a third party to control the entire computer network without the knowledge or consent of the computer owners. Levashov allegedly controlled and operated the Kelihos botnet to, among other things, harvest personal information and means of identification (including email addresses, usernames and logins, and passwords) from infected computers. To further the scheme, Levashov allegedly disseminated spam and distributed other malware – such as banking Trojans and ransomware, and advertised the Kelihos botnet spam and malware services to others for purchase in order to enrich himself.

The indictment further alleges that during any 24-hour period, the Kelihos botnet was used to generate and distribute more than 2,500 unsolicited spam e-mails that advertised various criminal schemes, including deceptively promoting stocks in order to fraudulently increase their price (so-called “pump-and-dump” stock fraud schemes).

On April 10, 2017, the Justice Department announced that it had taken action to dismantle the Kelihos botnet.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s New Haven Division and Anchorage Division are investigating the case, with the assistance of the Spanish National Police. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vanessa Richards and David Huang of the District of Connecticut, with the assistance of Senior Trial Attorneys Anthony Teelucksingh, Ethan Arenson and Harold Chun of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs is handling the extradition in this matter.

Four Former Corrections Officers Indicted for Civil Rights Violations

Former Officers Conspired to Assault Inmate at Missouri Detention Center

The Department of Justice announced today that four former corrections officers at the Jackson County Detention Center (“JCDC”) have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a conspiracy to physically assault an inmate in violation of his Constitutional protection against unreasonable force.

Travis Hewitt, 27, Dakota Pearce, 24, Terrance Dooley, Jr., 36, and Jen-I Pulos, 36, all of Kansas City, Missouri, were charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.  The indictment was unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of Hewitt and Pulos.

“The Civil Rights Division will continue to prosecute corrections officers who exploit their position and violently assault individuals in their custody,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “The Department will continue to hold accountable those who act under color of law for the purpose of harming individuals in their custody.”

“The Constitution provides every citizen the right of due process, and protects every citizen from the use of unreasonable force,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Larson for the Western District of Missouri.  “Correctional officers who physically assault a shackled inmate in violation of his civil rights will be held accountable for their actions.”

“The FBI is charged with investigating any violation of an individual's civil rights, no matter where that violation may occur,” said Special Agent in Charge Darrin E. Jones of the FBI Kansas City Division.  “Correctional officers are entrusted with the power and needed authority to protect our community, but they do not have the right to abuse that authority.  The FBI will continue to work aggressively to pursue any and all allegations of civil rights violations.”

According to the indictment, Hewitt and Pearce served as acting sergeants at the JCDC. Dooley and Pulos served as members of the Disturbance Control Team, which is responsible for intervening in inmate altercations and neutralizing threats posed by inmates.

The indictment charges in Counts One and Two that on July 4, 2015, Hewitt, Pearce, Dooley and Pulos conspired to and did assault “J.R.,” an inmate awaiting resolution of allegations that he violated probation, in retaliation for a prior altercation that J.R. had with another corrections officer.  According to the indictment, the defendants, defying the orders of a superior officer, forcibly removed J.R. from his cell in the Medical Housing Unit and brought him to another holding cell down the hall in order to facilitate their assault on him.  There, as the indictment charges, all four defendants struck, punched and otherwise assaulted J.R., who was handcuffed, shackled, confined to a cell, suffering from disorientation and confusion, and not posing a threat to anyone.  The indictment further alleges that the defendants ensured their actions would go undetected by having one of them serve as a lookout, and by sending other nearby corrections officers to another part of the JCDC so those corrections officers would not witness the assault.

In addition to the conspiracy and the assault in the holding cell, Count Three charges Hewitt and Pearce with a separate assault on J.R., when they allegedly struck and punched J.R. while J.R. was restrained and not posing a physical threat to anyone.  Related to that assault, Count Four charges Hewitt with falsifying his departmental report with the intent to impede or obstruct the federal investigation.  The indictment alleges that Hewitt falsely wrote that J.R. bit his right hand, when in fact, Hewitt knew that he injured his hand by striking and punching J.R. about the head and face while J.R. was restrained and not posing a physical threat to anyone.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ketchmark of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of Missouri, and Special Litigation Counsel Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, U.S. Department of Justice.  It was investigated by the Kansas City Division of the FBI.

Investigators Conclude Scene Phase of Investigation at Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Explosion

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The National Response Team (NRT) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with Investigators from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command, have concluded the on-scene phase of the investigation in to the fatal explosion at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.

On Tuesday, April 11, at approximately 12:57 p.m., the Lake City Fire Department responded to an explosion in the primer mixing area of the plant. The explosion killed one plant employee, injured four, and caused significant damage to the primer production area. The Lake City plant manufactures ammunition used by all branches of the U.S. Military.

Working with its investigative partners, ATF NRT members spent the past three days investigating the cause and exact origin of the explosion. Investigators did an extensive scene examination and conducted interviews with first responders and plant personnel.

While the investigation into the exact cause of the explosion is ongoing, investigators have determined the explosion was non-criminal in nature.

In 1978, ATF developed the NRT to bring its expertise to federal, state and local investigators in meeting the challenges faced at the scenes of significant explosions and arson incidents. The NRT consists of four teams organized geographically to cover the United States. Each team can respond within 24 hours to assist state and local law enforcement/fire service personnel in on-site investigations.

The teams are each composed of veteran special agents who have post-blast and fire origin-and-cause expertise, forensic chemists, explosives enforcement officers, fire protection engineers, accelerant detection canines, explosives detection canines, intelligence support, computer forensic support, and audit support. The teams work alongside state and local officers in reconstructing the scene, identifying the seat of the blast or origin of the fire, conducting interviews, and sifting through debris to obtain evidence related to the explosion/arson.