‘Most Wanted’ Man Pleads Guilty in Cyberattack That Upended Vermont Hospital

A Ukrainian man pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday to his leadership role in two cyberattack schemes that caused tens of millions of dollars in losses and temporarily crippled a Vermont hospital in 2020, according to the Justice Department.

Prosecutors said that Vyacheslav Igorevich Penchukov, 37, was a leader for an organization that in May 2009 began to infect thousands of computers at corporations with malicious software, and that he helped lead a separate malware scheme that began around November 2018.

Mr. Penchukov, of Donetsk, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Nebraska to one count of conspiracy to commit an offense that violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He was arrested in Switzerland in 2022 and was extradited to the United States in 2023. A lawyer for Mr. Penchukov could not be found because the court file was sealed.

The Justice Department said that Mr. Penchukov helped lead “a wide-ranging racketeering enterprise and conspiracy” that installed malicious software known as Zeus onto thousands of business computers, starting in 2009. The malware allowed the enterprise to collect information used to log into online banking accounts, including passwords and personal identification numbers.

Mr. Penchukov and other members of the group then portrayed themselves as employees of the corporations who were authorized to transfer money from the accounts they targeted, causing millions of dollars in losses, according to the Justice Department.

The money was deposited into the accounts of residents of the United States and other countries who were known as “money mules,” and those people then sent it to overseas accounts that were run by Mr. Penchukov and other members of the group, according to the Justice Department.

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