A new release today reveals that the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed a criminal complaint against a Russian man allegedly involved in a fraud conspiracy connected with banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.
According to the report, the conspiracy involves the culprit stealing identities of real U.S. persons, and using them to open fake accounts at banking and crypto exchanges.
Artem Mikhaylovich Lifshits, the convicted, 27, is seen managing “Project Lakhta,” a Russia-based effort to engage in political and electoral interference operations hosted in the United States.
The project aims to disrupt the democratic process and spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general since May 2014. Since then, the project has strived to hide its conduct by operating through several entities, including the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
Investigations revealed that Lifshits had conspired with other members of the “Project Lakhta” to get identities of real US residents, which was then used by the conspirators to open fake accounts with the names of the victims at banking and cryptocurrency exchanges.
After that, Lifshits and his fellow conspirators allegedly used these fraudulent accounts to promote the influence of Project Lakhta’s operations. The culprits also went further to manipulate the accounts for their personal enrichment.
John C. Demers, the Assistant Attorney General for National Security, attested to the complaints saying, “Today’s charges allege that Russian national, Artem Lifshits, conspired with others to steal Americans’ identities and use them to open fraudulent bank and cryptocurrency accounts.”
“Lifshits participated in this fraud to further Project Lakhta’s malign influence goals and for his own personal enrichment. This case provides a clear illustration of how these malicious actors fund their covert foreign influence activities and Russia’s status as a safe-haven for cybercriminals who enrich themselves at others’ expense,” he added.
The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) had sanctioned Lifshits and two other “Project Lakhta” members based on the malicious cyber-enabled activity outlined in the complaint.
Federal law enforcement had declared to work aggressively to investigate and hold accountable cybercriminals located in Russia and other countries, which serve as a safe haven for criminal activity.