AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Atlanta prison too harsh for Russian hacker

Notorious cybercriminal transferred to North Carolina penitentiary


What with the booze smuggling, taxi service for escapees and takeout food from nearby restaurants, the federal prison camp in Atlanta doesn’t exactly define “hard time.”

Inmates would come and go from the minimum-security camp adjacent to the federal penitentiary -- at least until the AJC ran a story about how inmates were breaking out and sneaking back in with contraband.

Apparently, conditions are not so agreeable in the medium-security prison itself -- at least according to TASS Russian News Agency.

Conditions are so harsh at the Atlanta facility that the son of a top Russian lawmaker somehow won a transfer to a prison in North Carolina with milder conditions, the government-owned news agency is reporting. 

Federal prosecutors in Atlanta said that Roman Seleznev, whose father is in Russia’s parliament, was a key player in what was “the most sophisticated and organized computer fraud attack ever conducted” back in 2008. He worked with hackers who accessed millions of debit card numbers from an Atlanta-based company that processed card transactions, allowing a cybertheft ring to steal more than $50 million.

Seleznev, AKA Track2, Bulba and Ncux, pleaded guilty to that crime , drawing a 14-year prison sentence. He already was serving a 27-year sentence for other cybercrimes.

TASS reports that Seleznev had been serving his sentences at USP Atlanta but was sent to the federal prison in Butner, N.C., in late January. The Bureau of Prisons inmate locator confirms he is now held there.

Seleznev’s defense attorney is quoted by TASS as saying that the Butner correctional complex is much better than the federal prison in Georgia. “This is considered to be a very good prison, with a good hospital. He can walk there, there is a library there, and people may go in for sports,” attorney Igor Litvak is quoted as saying.

HIs attorney has said that Seleznev suffers from serious health problems after being injured in a 2011 terrorist attack in Morocco.

Moscow’s official position is that Seleznev was not arrested but was kidnapped by U.S. authorities and that the case against him was politically motivated. He was vacationing in Maldives when government authorities there allowed the U.S. to  capture him.

Read more: The U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta has developed a reputation for going after cybercriminals. Click here to read about other cases.


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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.