Could a Russian Credit Card Hacker Hold the Keys to a Donald Trump Indictment?

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Deep in the darkest parts of the internet exists a drama so great that it rises to a level typically only found in Hollywood films…. or perhaps a level currently only seen within U.S. politics. Yes, I am talking about the current Donald Trump drama that has ensued since his inauguration.

While there is plenty of speculation from both sides of the aisle on whether or not Trump’s administration colluded with the Russians in order to influence our democratic election process or not, one thing is for certain; an investigation is taking place.

Let’s backtrack a little bit and take a peak into the deep, dark depth of the underground criminal internet. If you go back to 2011, a Russian computer hacker named Roman Seleznev (Роман Селезнев) was indicted for hacking into servers within the United States in order to steal credit card data. In all, he stole over 2 million credit card numbers which in turn resulted in losses of over $170 million. Seleznev put malware onto credit card processing systems of restaurants and other businesses in the U.S., and then sold the data he collected to international criminals world-wide on now defunct websites such as carder.su.

Where this story really gets interesting is that Seleznev’s father, Valery Seleznev happens to be a member of the Duma (Russia’s parliament), and has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And it is a phone conversation that Roman and Valery had back in December of 2015 that shows that Valery had some knowledge of connections between Putin and Donald Trump well before the election took place or Trump established himself as a real front-runner. This conversation happened almost immediately after Roman Seleznev found out that a key motion, that he had hoped would set him free, got turned down.  The conversation went as follows, according to court transcripts:

Valery: “You can be mad, but don’t go wild with rage.”
Roman: “No, I mean I need to keep going to go to the trial. I will keep going.”
Valery: “Absolutely.”
Roman: “Yes.”
Valery: “Besides, the relationships between the countries can improve. You know what I mean?”
Roman: “That’s what I am hoping for.”
Valery: “Well, they will get better, I am sure about that.”
Roman: “Well, some day they will get better for sure.” [Laughs]
Valery: “No, I think that they are already better.”
Roman: “Really?”
Valery: “Uh-huh.”
Roman: “OK, OK.”
Valery: “Yes.”

This conversation took place well after the Russian hackers first infiltrated the DNC’s network, and shortly after Michael Flynn was in Moscow for a conference in which he was spotted sitting next to Vladimir Putin for dinner.

Did Valery, who has close ties to Putin, know something back then? Is it possible that he assumed the Russian government would have enough influence to help Donald Trump win the election? Did Putin and Trump discuss some sort of agreement for returning Roman Seleznev back to Russia where he could stand trial or ultimately serve a lesser sentence? It’s hard to say, but Valery apparently knew something.

So here we are, almost a year and a half after that cryptic conversation between the two Seleznevs, and Roman has been sentenced to 27-years in prison — the largest ever for a hacking violation in the United States. There are two facts that we can pull from this story. 1) Valery Seleznev has close ties to Putin, and appears to have known something about Russian/U.S. relations prior to the general public and 2) Valery would love to have his son freed or returned to Russia.

Could prosecutors looking into the Trump/Russia investigations use Roman Seleznev to get information out of Valery? The answer, if Valery knows something of value, is YES!

According to Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the United States could offer some sort of deal to Roman and Valery Seleznev which could either free or reduce the sentence, in exchange for information about the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia (if it exists).

In accordance with Rule 35(1), “the court may reduce a sentence [within one year of sentencing] if the defendant, after sentencing, provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.”

This of course would require Valery Seleznev to leave Russia, as he would certainly come under attack by Putin supporters for providing information that could incriminate the Russian government. That would be the tricky part, but it definitely is not impossible. If Valery really does have information that could free his son, would he side with his country or with his own blood? That’s a question that may hold the key to making an eventual Trump indictment easier on prosecutors.

Undoubtedly there are other source of information out there, including everything else held by the FBI, NSA, and CIA in regards to possible collusion, but if you are able to convince a Russian official with close ties to Putin to testify, that would do wonders for the prosecution’s case.

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