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Ransomware operation | A Quebecer extradited to the United States

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(Ottawa) A Gatineau man has been extradited to the United States to face charges in Florida stemming from his alleged involvement in a ransomware operation.

Following a request from the American authorities, Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins was arrested in Gatineau in January 2021. During a search, the police seized 719 bitcoins, worth around 35 million, and 790,000 $ in Canadian currency.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) said in a statement Thursday it believed it was “the largest cryptocurrency seizure (by value) in Canada to date.”

The RCMP says investigators also seized more than 20 terabytes of data from Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins’ computer and storage devices. The analysis of this data made it possible to identify 17 Canadian companies targeted by the accused, indicates the RCMP.

Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins pleaded guilty in an Ontario court on January 31 to charges of extortion, mischief with computer data and participation in a criminal organization. He was sentenced to a seven-year prison term.

The RCMP explains that the extradition of Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins to the United States is now linked to his alleged ransomware activities directed against companies and institutions based this time in the United States.

The US Department of Justice said Thursday that an indictment in Florida charged him with, among other things, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, and willful damage to a protected computer.

The charges stem from his alleged involvement in a sophisticated form of ransomware known as “NetWalker”, which has targeted dozens of victims around the world, including businesses, municipalities, hospitals, law enforcement , emergency services, school districts and universities, the department said.

The RCMP investigation began in August 2020, when it received information and a request from the United States Federal Police (FBI) to assist in the identification of a suspect.

The FBI provided the RCMP with important evidence, allowing the force to investigate any criminal activity that may have been carried out against Canadian businesses, institutions or government agencies, the RCMP said.

Canadian investigators were able to identify Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins through internet protocol addresses and data gleaned from US investigations of various accounts, pseudonyms, email addresses and personal information revealed on social media platforms.

In his reasons for imposing the seven-year sentence, Ontario Court Judge G. Paul Renwick said that between May 2020 and January 2021, Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins victimized the 17 Canadian entities, who suffered millions of dollars in losses, by breaching private computer networks and systems, hijacking their data, holding stolen data for ransom, and distributing stolen data when ransoms have not been paid.

If Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins hadn’t cooperated with investigators, he wouldn’t have been charged for several years as police ‘sifted through the mountain of data to identify the victims and searched for evidence to mount a successful prosecution’ , wrote the judge.

Judge Renwick pointed out that the parties to the case had agreed that Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins’ sentence could begin immediately and continue during and after the resolution of his charges in the United States, and concurrent with any prison term that he will receive. he would receive there.

He said he would “defer to another day” considering the court’s jurisdiction to order how and where Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins would serve this prison sentence compared to sentences imposed elsewhere.

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