A Canadian was extradited from Canada to the United States yesterday on an indictment returned to the Mid-District of Florida that charges him with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, intentional damage to a computer protected and forwarding a claim in connection with damage to a protected computer resulting from its alleged participation in a sophisticated form of ransomware known as NetWalker. NetWalker ransomware has targeted dozens of victims worldwide, including businesses, municipalities, hospitals, law enforcement, emergency services, school districts, colleges and universities. The attacks have specifically targeted the health sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, taking advantage of the global crisis to extort victims.
According to court documents, Sébastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, from April to December 2020, conspired and intentionally damaged a protected computer and transmitted a ransom demand to that effect. The indictment also alleges that the United States intends to confiscate more than $27 million, which is allegedly attributable to the proceeds of the crimes. The accused will make his first appearance today in federal court in Tampa before U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie S. Sneed.
“As illustrated by the seizure of cryptocurrency by our Canadian partners, we will use all legally available avenues to pursue the seizure and confiscation of suspected ransomware proceeds, whether located domestically or abroad,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The department will continue to pursue and seize cryptocurrency ransoms, thwarting ransomware actors’ attempts to evade law enforcement through the use of virtual currency.”
“Ransomware is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that transcends physical and political boundaries. International collaboration is key to identifying the perpetrators of these sophisticated schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Central District of Florida. “This case illustrates effective international law enforcement cooperation aimed at identifying cybercriminals, holding them accountable for their alleged criminal acts, and recovering funds allegedly stolen from their victims.”
“This investigation is another example of the exceptional work being done by the Tampa FBI Cyber Program, the Middle District of Florida, the FBI Cyber Division, and our law enforcement partners around the world,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Sanjay Virmani of the FBI Field Office in Tampa. “It is also a reminder that the FBI continues to work tirelessly to identify, locate and apprehend those who prey on the innocent and bring justice to the citizens of the United States.”
Vachon-Desjardins was extradited to the United States under the United States-Canada Extradition Treaty. Pursuant to a request submitted by U.S. authorities, Canadian law enforcement officers arrested Vachon-Desjardins in Gatineau, Quebec on January 27, 2021, and executed a search warrant at the home of Vachon-Desjardins in Gatineau. During the search, officers discovered and seized 719 bitcoins, worth approximately $28,151,582 as of today’s date, and $790,000 in Canadian currency.
The FBI Field Office in Tampa is investigating the case.
Attorney Sonia V. Jimenez of the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carlton C. Gammons and Suzanne Nebesky of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Florida are suing the case. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of International Affairs provided valuable assistance in securing Vachon-Desjardin’s arrest and extradition. The US Marshals Service transported Vachon-Desjardins from Canada to the United States.
The investigation benefited from the police cooperation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Gatineau Police Service and the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit.
An indictment is only an allegation and the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.