Denis Mihaqlovic Dubnikov, of Russia, has admitted in a United States court to laundering cryptocurrency for the Ryuk ransomware gang.
Ryuk is a file-encrypting ransomware that emerged in 2018 and which was operated by the same cybercriminals as the Trickbot botnet.
In early 2021, security researchers estimated the Ryuk operation to be worth over $150 million. Ryuk was then replaced in attacks by the Conti ransomware.
According to court documents, between August 2018 and August 2021, Dubnikov, now 30, laundered the proceeds of Ryuk ransomware attacks on entities in the US and elsewhere.
In a typical ransomware attack, cybercriminals breach the systems of individuals or organizations, deploy the file-encrypting malware, and use it to render data on the infected systems unusable. The victim is usually instructed to pay a ransom in exchange for a decryption key.
Dubnikov, who was arrested in the Netherlands in November 2021 and extradited to the US in August 2022, engaged in various financial transactions to conceal the source and ownership of ransom proceeds from Ryuk attacks.
Following one ransomware attack, a US-based company paid a 250 Bitcoin ransom to Ryuk threat actors, who then transferred 35 Bitcoin to Dubnikov, in exchange for approximately $400,000.
Dubnikov then converted the Bitcoin to Tether and sent it to another co-conspirator, who exchanged it for Chinese Renminbi. Dubnikov’s co-conspirators laundered additional funds from the ransom payment.
According to court documents, Dubnikov received financial compensation for his role in the scheme.
Dubnikov has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. He is scheduled for sentencing on April 11, 2023.
Related: Former Ubiquiti Employee Who Posed as Hacker Pleads Guilty
Related: Canadian NetWalker Ransomware Affiliate Pleads Guilty in US
Related: Nigerian Admits in US Court to Hacking Payroll Company