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ShadowCrew Cybercrime Forum Vendor Sentenced to Prison

A Bulgarian national was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months in prison for his role in an international conspiracy to operate the hacking and identity theft online marketplace called ShadowCrew.

Back in 2004, when it was dismantled by United States authorities, ShadowCrew was considered the largest online forum of its kind. The illegal online marketplace had as many as 4,000 members at one point, and it is said to have facilitated the trafficking of at least 1.5 million stolen payment cards, with losses of over $4 million caused to card issuers.

A total of 19 individuals from across the globe have been indicted for taking part in the conspiracy to operate the ShadowCrew website, one of which is 32-year-old Bulgarian national Aleksi Kolarov.

Kolarov was arrested by Paraguayan law enforcement authorities in the summer of 2011 while he was staying at a hotel in Asunción, Paraguay. When they made the arrest, officers found hundreds of thousands of dollars in various currencies, counterfeit payment cards, and devices used to forge cards in the suspects possession.

The man remained in the custody of Paraguayan authorities until June 2013, when he was extradited to the United States. Investigators determined that Kolarov was a vendor on the ShadowCrew forum, selling various items and services to other members of the website.

"Aleksi Kolarov is charged with conspiring in the most notorious online cybercrime marketplace of its time, selling the means to steal money and identities to other criminals," United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman said in a statement at the time of Kolarov's extradition. "This extradition shows that hiding behind computers and borders does not deter us. It is vital that law enforcement work internationally to bring cybercriminals to justice, no matter how long it takes."

Kolarov pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and access device fraud. He was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in a Newark federal court.

According to the Department of Justice, only three of the 19 people indicted in this case remain at large.  ShadowCrew was dismantled after authorities arrested Albert Gonzalez, one of the forum's administrators. He worked with law enforcement on tracking down other members of the website but, in the meantime, he continued hacking the systems of various organizations in an effort to steal credit and debit card data.  In March 2010, Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in prison for hacking into and stealing information from companies such as Barnes & Noble, Dave & Busters, TJX, and Office Max.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.