- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Maryland man accused of participating in a yearslong scheme described by the Justice Department as “securities fraud on cyber steroids” was arrested in Russia on immigration charges several months ago following a lengthy manhunt, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.

Joshua Aaron, 32, was arrested in May after police showed up at his apartment near downtown Moscow and found he had violated the terms of his visa, Bloomberg reported. He was subsequently jailed, fined the equivalent of $80 and ordered to leave the country, according to Bloomberg.

The FBI issued an arrest warrant for the Potomac native in June 2015 upon charging him with crimes including conspiracy to commit computer hacking, security fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Despite being placed on the bureau’s “most wanted” list of suspected cyber criminals, however, the accused fraudster won’t necessarily stand trial stateside anytime soon: Russia doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the U.S., and an FBI spokeswoman told Bloomberg this week that Mr. Aaron was not presently in U.S. custody.

Instead Russia has offered to send Mr. Aaron to the U.S. in exchange for a “reciprocal” act, according to court transcripts seen by Bloomberg. In the meantime, he is presumably free to leave Russia, Bloomberg reported.

Mr. Aaron told Russian prosecutors in a recent court hearing that he did not know he had been charged in the U.S., according to Bloomberg.

The U.S. Embassy did not immediately respond to Russia’s request, and declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg this week, according to the report.

The FBI believes Mr. Aaron participated in a “sprawling criminal enterprise” that illegally made millions of dollars using sensitive information acquired by hacking into several Wall Street companies including JPMorgan Chase — a security breach U.S. Attorney Preet Bhara called “the largest theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history.”

Upon obtaining the hacked data, investigators say Mr. Aaron and his partners “used the contact information of millions of American citizens to manipulate the price and volume of traded shares in numerous publicly traded stocks by means of deceptive and misleading email campaigns, and manipulative, prearranged stock trading.”

“After causing a stock’s price and trading volume to increase artificially during the days or weeks of the email promotional campaign, members of the conspiracy, including Aaron, began dumping, or selling, their shares of the stock in a coordinated fashion, often resulting in huge profits to members of the conspiracy,” according to the FBI.

Two Israeli men – Gery Shalon and Ziv Orenstein — were charged alongside Mr. Aaron and extradited to the U.S. earlier this year. Both pleaded not guilty when they were arraigned in June and face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted of all counts.

Mr. Aaron entered Russia by way of Ukraine on May 23, 2015, but failed to adhere to the terms of a three-year visa that required him to exit and re-enter Russia every six months, according to Bloomberg. The FBI suspected he was residing in eastern Europe when it filed a federal arrest warrant less than two weeks later.

About 83 million JPMorgan Chase customers had their personal records compromised as a result of a 2014 security breach, prosecutors said.


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