NEW YORK (AP) — Three Estonian men were sentenced to over three years in prison Thursday for their roles in an Internet scheme that infected more than 4 million computers in over 100 countries.
U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan imposed the sentences in Manhattan federal court, bemoaning the steady influx of computer crime cases across the globe.
“It’s hard to pick up a newspaper this summer without reading about another one,” Kaplan said as he explained why it was necessary to impose tough sentences on three men who seemed “extremely remorseful.”
Kaplan said he wanted it to be known that those who breach the security of computers on a large scale will “face very substantial risks.”
Timur Gerassimenko, 35, was sentenced to four years, Dmitri Jegorov, 37, got 3 2/3 years and Konstantin Poltev, 31, received 3 1/3 years for their roles in a computer fraud that stretched from 2007 to 2011, when the men were arrested in Estonia. Gerassimenko was ordered to forfeit $2.5 million while Jegorov and Poltev were each told to forfeit $1 million.
According to the government, Gerassimenko hired programmers, Jegorov was the lead network administrator while Poltev was the public face of the enterprise.
All three men apologized for their crimes before they were sentenced.
Prosecutors say the men and others made more than $14 million with a scheme that infected over a half-million computers in the United States alone. The fraud affected computers belonging to government agencies such as NASA, along with educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals.
The government said the malware scheme, carried out with co-conspirators in Russia and Ukraine, cost NASA more than $65,000 in repairs and others millions of dollars more. Prosecutors said Google Inc. reported that hundreds of thousands of users of its search engine had been compromised by the malware and some of them switched to competitors as a result.
Prosecutors said the highly sophisticated scam enabled the conspirators to earn millions by hijacking Internet searches and re-routing computers to certain websites and advertisements, generating higher Internet traffic than they otherwise might manage.
All three men sentenced Thursday must finish serving sentences for similar crimes in Estonia. The judge said he considered the fact that some time the men served in Estonia prisons before extraditions to the United States was in terrible conditions.
The men were among five who have pleaded guilty in the case. A fourth man has already been sentenced to four years in prison while a fifth is scheduled to be sentenced in October.