Ryuk ransom crook pleads guilty to money laundering

A Russian national extradited from the Netherlands has pleaded guilty to washing cash obtained by the Ryuk ransomware gang, and now faces up to 20 years in prison, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced.

Denis Dubnikov, 30, entered the guilty plea at a federal court in Oregon, essentially confirming his role between 2018 and 2021 in laundering proceeds obtained through extortion by the Ryuk gang.

“After receiving ransom payments, Ryuk actors, including Dubnikov and his co-conspirators, and others involved in the scheme engaged in various financial transactions, including international financial transactions, to conceal the nature, source, location, ownership, and control of the ransom proceeds,” said the DoJ, announcing the plea.

A US company paid 250BTC (Bitcoin) in extortion fees to the ransom group in 2019 - not long after, Dubnikov accepted a 35BTC from this crime, which translated to roughly $400,000, converting it into Tether, another digital currency, before passing it onto an accomplice who then converted it to Chinese fiat currency, the DoJ said.

Dubnikov is said to have taken a cut for his role in the scheme, although that should avail him little now he faces time behind bars and a fine of up to $500,000. He is due for sentencing on April 11.

Ryuk is the name given to the malicious software used by gangs, often associated with the same name, to encrypt data held by target organizations, rendering it unusable until they have paid the ransom demand.

Having targeted thousands of potential victims in recent years, Ryuk has also been labeled as a priority threat to hospitals and other healthcare organizations in the US.

Dubnikov was brought to justice by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Attorney’s Office for the district of Oregon.

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