The wheels of justice continue to turn slowly in a case that brought concerns about Russian hackers to Seattle’s Capitol Hill long before the 2016 presidential election.
This week, the Department of Justice scored a minor victory on the way to sentencing Roman Seleznev after his summer conviction in a $1.7 million international computer hacking and identity theft scheme that included stealing credit card numbers in 2010 from the now-shuttered Broadway Grill on Capitol Hill and the Mad Pizza chain, among other local businesses.
In August, a federal jury in Seattle found Seleznev guilty on 38 counts, including computer hacking, wire fraud, and identity theft. He could face up to 34 years in prison.
While DOJ prosecutors couldn’t stop Seleznev from once again making a change in his defense team — the fifth such change, the government attorneys contend — they did enough to apparently push notorious cybercriminal defense attorney Arkady Bukh out of the picture. In late November, prosecutors filed a notice of conflict of interest seeking to bar Bukh’s participation in the case:
A hearing scheduled for Tuesday in federal court ended up as an anticlimax. Bukh, who has represented a long list of Russians accused of involvement in large hacking schemes, told the court he won’t be representing Seleznev and referred the defendant to “alternative counsel.”
The son a Russian politician, Seleznev’s case gained international attention when he was taken into custody by United States law enforcement in 2014 while attempting to board a plane in the Maldives. The Russians called it a kidnapping and accused the U.S. of trying to trade Seleznev for Edward Snowden.
Prosecutors maintain Seleznev’s frequent changes to his defense team are a strategy to stave off sentencing and pending trials in two other federal cases against him. “As detailed in numerous previous pleadings, defendant has engaged in a clear pattern of using changes of counsel to delay these proceedings,” they wrote in a response asking Judge Richard Jones to deny the request for new counsel.
Jones sided with Seleznev and turned Seattle-based attorneys John Henry Browne and Emma Scanlan loose from the case. According to the most recent filings, attorney Igor Litvak now represents the defendant.
Seleznev’s sentencing is currently slated for February.