U.S. Deports Second Russian Hacker After Long Prison Term Ends

A screen grab showing Russian citizen Aleksandr Panin, the primary developer of the SpyEye malware. The United States recently deported Panin.  

The United States has sent another Russian hacker back home after serving years in U.S. prison.

Aleksandr Panin, the primary developer of a prolific malware known as SpyEye, was deported to Russia on January 5, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said in a statement to RFE/RL.

Panin was released on November 8 after serving more than eight years in a Mississippi prison and turned over to ICE custody for deportation, the agency said.

Panin, who is from Tver, was arrested on July 2013 at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.

He pleaded guilty a year later to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.

He was sentenced in April 2016 to nine and a half years in prison, including the time he spent in pretrial detention.

Panin sold his malware — a successor to the notorious Zeus software that ravaged banks more than a decade ago — to criminals on online forums for up to $8,500, according to court documents.

U.S. prosecutors say SpyEye affected more than 10,000 bank accounts at 253 financial institutions.

Panin’s deportation comes four months after the United States deported Aleksei Burkov, a hacker who was the subject of a years-long extradition battle, to Russia after he served more than five years of a nine-year term.

Burkov’s early release from prison came amid the restart of U.S.-Russia cyber talks, leading to speculation that it may have been part of a deal with Moscow, something Washington denied.

Burkov was detained in Israel in December 2015 at the request of the United States on cybercrime charges.

Russia also submitted an extradition request, claiming Burkov was wanted at home, sparking a tug-of-war between Moscow and Washington for the hacker.

Burkov was eventually extradited to the United States in 2019. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2020 to nine years in prison, including time served since 2015.

Burkov may have been released early from prison for providing help to U.S. investigators, defense attorneys told RFE/RL at the time. His lawyer declined to comment.

Federal criminal procedure rules allow courts to reduce defendants’ prison terms if within a year of their sentencing they provide “substantial assistance” to investigators.

Burkov’s partner, Ruslan Yeliseyev, a Ukrainian, received a similar reduction in sentence and was deported back to his home country in 2020.

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