Cash cleaner gets four years for laundering web scammers’ money

A Florida resident has been sentenced after pleading guilty to laundering millions of dollars obtained through fraudulent websites designed to mimic reputable companies, in an organized social engineering campaign that spanned a decade.

Denis Sotnikov, 39, of Hallandale Beach, entered a guilty plea by videolink to a court in Florida before being handed a 45-month sentence for his role in the scam, which ran more than 150 bogus websites designed to lure victims.

“At times, the fraudulent websites were designed to closely resemble websites being operated by actual, well-known, and publicly reputable financial institutions,” said the US Department of Justice, announcing the sentencing. “At other times, the fraudulent websites were designed to resemble seemingly legitimate financial institutions that did not exist.”

The court had heard how Sotnikov received $6 million stolen from at least 18 victims, deposited into bank accounts accessible to him or his relatives. This was but a fraction of the scheme’s total gains, which amounted to more than $50 million stolen between 2012 and 2020 from about 70 people by ringleader Allen Giltman, 56, of Irvine, California, and his accomplices.

“Victims of the fraud scheme typically discovered the fraudulent websites via internet searches,” said the DoJ. The fake sites advertised investment opportunities that typically took the form of offers to purchase certificates of deposit with higher than average rates of return.

Of the money taken by Sotnikov, $3.7 million was intercepted and returned to the victims - but the rest was lost, either to being wired by him overseas or spent on his lavish lifestyle.

Giltman has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Both men were brought to justice by the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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