PITTSBURGH – Two people have pleaded guilty to their roles in cybercriminal money laundering organization QQAAZZ. On August 6 and July 13, two of the accused, Arturs Zaharevics and Aleksejs Trofimovics, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy in the Western District of Pennsylvania. QQAAZZ was a Europe-based money laundering organization that made illegal withdrawals and cryptocurrency transactions possible for computer hackers and their employees. A total of 20 people were charged under this ruling.
In order to promote the QQAAZZ criminal conspiracy, Trofimovics registered a mailbox company in Portugal under his own name that was not doing legitimate business. Trofimovics then opened at least thirteen corporate bank accounts in Portugal on behalf of the mailbox company to enable QQAAZZ to receive and launder money stolen by cyber criminals from victims and their respective financial institutions. Several of these Portuguese accounts received or were designed to receive funds stolen from US victims.
Arturs Zaharevics was successfully delivered from the UK in April. To encourage QQAAZZ’s criminal conspiracy, Zaharevics set up a mailbox company under a false name and set up foreign bank accounts on behalf of this mailbox company that sought to receive or accept funds stolen from US victims.
The acting US Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the responsible FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent Mike Nordwall announced today.
“Transnational money laundering organizations like the QQAAZZ Group play a critical role in helping cybercriminals benefit from their systems. The guilty confessions announced today reflect our continued commitment to crush these harmful groups by working with our overseas partners. The guilty confessions further demonstrate our commitment to prosecute such criminals in other parts of the world and to ensure that they are brought to justice in our US courts, ”said Acting US Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman of the Western District of Pennsylvania.
“These people operated a money laundering system that worked with cyber criminals who stole unsuspecting victims in the US and around the world,” said Mike Nordwall, the FBI Pittsburgh special agent in charge. “Your confessions of guilt are proof that no one can hide behind a computer or an international border. The FBI goes into numerous efforts to combat cyber threats, from improving threat detection and information sharing to examining how we operate to disrupt and mitigate them. Partnerships are an integral part of our daily work, and the global partners in this research have enabled us all to combine tools, skills and knowledge to form a stronger team to put these criminals out of business. “
According to the factual bases for the two admissions of guilt and the various instruments of prosecution in this case, QQAAZZ members, in collaboration with cybercriminals around the world, conspired to launder money stolen from computer fraud victims in the US and elsewhere. More than 40 house searches were carried out in Latvia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy, with prosecutions initiated in the United States, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom. Most of the searches and arrests in Latvia were carried out by the Latvian State Police (Latvijas Valsts Policija), and an extensive bitcoin mining operation related to the group was seized in Bulgaria. Europol and several law enforcement agencies across Europe worked with the United States to develop parallel investigations and prosecutions against QQAAZZ members in their own countries.
The investigation was carried out by the FBI. The Department of Justice’s International Affairs Bureau and law enforcement partners in the UK and Latvia secured the arrest of the accused abroad.
The case is being prosecuted by trial attorney Michael Parker of the Department of Money Laundering and Asset Recovery of the Department of Justice of the United States Department of Justice, U.S. Assistant Attorney Charles A. “Death” Eberle, director of national security and cybercrime for the Western District, of Pennsylvania and U.S. Assistant Attorney Brian Czarnecki of the Western District of Pennsylvania.