- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

SEATTLE (AP) - Federal prosecutors deny claims that Secret Service agents did not properly handle the laptop of a Russian man charged with hacking into U.S. businesses.

Roman Seleznev accused agents of tampering with his computer or failing to protect it after they seized it during his 2014 arrest. But a forensic computer expert hired by prosecutors said modifications made to files stemmed from “routine operating system activity, and not from human interaction,” according to court records filed Thursday.

Seleznev’s lawyers asked a judge last week to throw out evidence taken from the computer after their expert discovered hundreds of files were modified and thousands of others were accessed between the time of Seleznev’s arrest and when authorities received a search warrant.

Defense attorney John Henry Browne said the discovery calls into question the validity of all evidence stored on the device. Prosecutors said Seleznev’s request should be denied.

Prosecutors describe Seleznev as a leader in the marketplace for stolen credit cards. He was indicted on charges of hacking into businesses, stealing card numbers and selling the data online. Secret Service agents arrested him in the Maldives on July 5, 2014, and brought him to Seattle to face charges.

During the arrest, they seized his laptop and sent it to an evidence vault at the agency’s Seattle office. An agent filed an affidavit saying it was stored in substantially the same state as when it was seized.

Prosecutors said the tampering claims are “based on the wholesale omission of key facts” and “verges on an outright lack of candor with the court.”

An expert for the prosecution said the computer activity that occurred after Seleznev’s arrest included standard maintenance, antivirus activity and other scheduled events.

“The fact that the computer continued to automatically check files and write files between the time of defendant’s apprehension and Aug. 1, 2014, actually shows agents did not tamper with the computer,” prosecutors told the judge, referencing the date of the warrant.

The computer also shows that it did not connect with any other network after the arrest date, which proves there were no remote connections, as claimed by the defense, prosecutors said.

Judge Richard Jones has yet to rule on the motion. Seleznev’s trial is set for May 9.

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Follow Martha Bellisle at https://twitter.com/marthabellisle

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