Russian accused of online fraud and wanted by the United States arrested in Bulgaria
Posted November 10, 2018 1:27 a.m. EST
Updated November 10, 2018 2:08 a.m. EST
(CNN) — A Russian citizen accused of online fraud involving millions of dollars has been arrested in Varna, Bulgaria, on a warrant issued by the United States and is awaiting extradition proceedings, according to a statement by the Varna District Court issued Thursday.
A US Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the arrest.
"As a matter of longstanding policy, the US Department of Justice generally does not comment on extradition-related matters until a defendant is in the United States. There is nothing public at this time," US Justice Department spokeswoman Nicole Navas Oxman told CNN.
The Russian citizen, named by the court as 38-year-old Alexander Zh., with the last name abbreviated, has been accused of electronic fraud and a conspiracy to commit computer fraud which resulted in damages of at least $7 million.
The defendant and his accomplices are accused of tricking advertisers into making payments for fake online traffic to their websites and ads, which was generated by software that they created to resemble real users browsing the internet.
They are accused by US authorities of having maintained a computer network with servers in Dallas, Texas.
According to the arrest warrant issued by the US District Court for the eastern district of New York, the crimes were committed between September 2014 and December 2016.
The Varna District Court found "the most appropriate measure of detention against the Russian citizen as 'provisional detention' until the beginning of the actual extradition proceedings," according to a statement by the court.
Bulgarian authorities have conducted searches at Alexander Zh.'s home to collect evidence for prosecution in the United States, the court said.
If found guilty, he faces up to 20 years in prison in the US, a fine or both. His actions are also punishable under Bulgarian law, the court said.
Alexander Zh. told the court that he has been in Bulgaria for 8 years and has been living there permanently during the last four. He has a Bulgarian ID card and his own home in Varna.
Russia's Consular General in Varna, Vladimir Klimanov, told Russian state news agency TASS on Friday that Russian authorities learned about Alexander Zh.'s arrest from his wife. "We haven't received any official information. Under the circumstances, the Consulate General will take all the necessary measures," he said.