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Bulgaria: Hacker Sentenced for Computer Fraud

(Mar. 13, 2009) Isa “Hacker” Mekhmed was sentenced in Bulgaria on February 23, 2009, after being convicted of computer fraud. His sentence, handed down by a court panel of the Varna District Court, is four and a half years in prison. In addition, the Bulgarian citizen must repay nearly1.8 million leva (about US$1.6 million) to the people he defrauded. Of that sum, about US$67,000 was seized at the time of his arrest. He will also have to pay a fine and the equivalent of a little more than US$1,000 in court expenses. His four assistants arranged agreements with the prosecutor's office; three have been given suspended sentences and one will serve 18 months in prison and pay 5,000 leva (about US$3,200). (Bulgarian Court Sentences Hacker for Emptying “Hundreds” of US Bank Accounts, TRUD (Sofia), Mar. 6, 2009, available through the World News Connection online database.)

The charges stemmed from crimes committed from June 2003 to January 2008 and included forming and heading a money-laundering ring, extorting money from two individuals, and financial fraud, including stealing from the bank accounts of hundreds of U.S. citizens via computer. The defendant used an international Internet forum to buy information about bank accounts, and through a computer virus he retrieved data on debit and credit cards, initially taking only small amounts, US$20-$30, from each account. In 2007, however, Mekhmed and his assistants escalated their efforts and withdrew US$100,000 from a few accounts. A parallel criminal investigation has been launched in the United States. (Id.)

The case can be seen in the context of efforts Bulgaria has said it will make to increase its fight against organized crime and corruption. There has been criticism from the European Union that the efforts have been insufficient. The country, which joined the EU in 2007, hopes to have €220 million (about US$284.3 million) in aid released. The funds were frozen due to concerns about financial fraud in Bulgaria. (Bulgaria Jails “The Hacker” for Money Laundering, JAVNO.COM, Feb. 23, 2009, available at