Alexander Vinnik, a Russian citizen accused of overseeing a cryptocurrency exchange that allegedly helped criminals launder billions of dollars, was extradited to the United States following a years-long extradition battle between the Russia, the United States and France.
He now faces up to 50 years in US prison.
Vinnik was sentenced in December 2020 to five years in French prison for money laundering, but was cleared of an initial charge that he defrauded nearly 200 people using ransomware through the known cryptocurrency exchange. as BTC-e.
France sent Vinnik back to Greece on Thursday, where he was originally arrested in 2017.
From there, Vinnik was flown by private plane to Boston and then to San Francisco, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Friday.
“Everything…was made to look like a kidnapping,” an unnamed Vinnik family member said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
The Russian computer expert is expected to make a first appearance in court for the Northern US District of California, according to CNN.
A US indictment charges Vinnik with 21 counts ranging from identity theft and facilitating drug trafficking to money laundering and operating an unlicensed currency service in the United States.
US investigators suspect Vinnik of being the mastermind of what they say has become one of the main ways cybercriminals launder their illegal earnings.
He allegedly operated the BTC-e bitcoin exchange until his arrest in the tourist resort of Halkidiki in northern Greece. The US Department of Justice alleges that BTC-e received over $4 billion in bitcoins before it was shut down in 2017.
The US Treasury Department had in 2017 assessed a $12 million fine against Vinnik and a $110 million civil penalty against BTC-e for alleged money laundering.
Vinnik unsuccessfully attempted to be extradited to Russia, where he is wanted on lesser fraud charges involving just 9,500 euros.
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