Moldovan pleads guilty in computer malware scheme
A Moldova resident pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Downtown Pittsburgh in connection with an international malware scheme devised to steal personal and banking information from infected computers around the world.
Andrey Ghinkul, 31, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and damaging a computer, acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song said.
Ghinkul was accused of conspiring to distribute malware — known variously as Dridex, Cridex or Bugat — to steal personal and banking information. Hackers then could use the stolen information to authorize fraudulent wire transfers worth millions of dollars from victims’ bank accounts.
Authorities estimated that losses from the scheme in the United States likely topped $10 million, while worldwide losses are close to $25 million.
Local victims of the hacking schemes included Penneco Oil Co. in Delmont and the Sharon City School District, prosecutors have said.
Criminals transferred more than $3.5 million from Penneco’s bank account to accounts in Krasnodar, Russia, and Minsk, Belarus, on Aug. 31, 2012, and Sept. 4, 2012, according to court documents.
Separately, hackers targeted Sharon City schools on Dec. 16, 2011, trying to move $999,999 from the district’s bank account to an account in Kiev, Ukraine, prosecutors said. A diligent bank employee thwarted the theft by calling the district’s business manager for confirmation of the large transfer.
Ghinkul is scheduled to be sentenced July 13. He could face up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.