US prosecutors search for victims of Russian scammer tied to Issachar case

Virginia officials call for those hurt by Aleksei Burkov’s credit card fraud scheme to contact Justice Department

Aleksey Burkov attends an appeals hearing against his extradition to the United States at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Aleksey Burkov attends an appeals hearing against his extradition to the United States at the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, November 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Federal prosecutors in Virginia have taken the unusual step of conducting a public search for victims of a Russian national whose website facilitated more than $20 million in credit card fraud.

Aleksei Burkov of St. Petersburg, Russia, pleaded guilty last month in US District Court in Alexandria to fraud, money laundering and other charges. He will be sentenced in May.

He admitted running a website called “Cardplanet” that sold more than 150,000 stolen credit-card numbers.

On Monday, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia issued a public advisory seeking to find potential victims of the fraud scheme. Those who believe they may have been victimized can check a Justice Department website for information about submitting a victim impact statement.

Israel extradited Burkov to the US in November over Russia’s objections.

His fate was believed to be linked to Russia’s sentencing last year of Israeli-American Naama Issachar, 26, to seven and a half years in prison for drug offenses.

She was charged for drug trafficking after 10 grams of marijuana were found in her bag as she changed flights at a Moscow airport en route from India to Israel in April.

The harsh sentence for what is widely considered a minor offense was seen as a Russian attempt to use her to secure Burkov’s release.

Issachar returned to Israel last week after Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned her following intensive lobbying by Israel.

Naama Issachar speaks to reporters at Ben Gurion Airport on January 30, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter)

Reports in Hebrew-language media have said Israeli officials believe Burkov may be connected to Russian intelligence. Burkov, in an interview with Channel 13, denied any such involvement.

Israeli officials told Hebrew media in November that Jerusalem turned down an offer by Moscow to swap Burkov for Issachar.

At the time the extradition decision was made, Issachar’s mother Yaffa attempted to prevent the move and filed a petition at the High Court of Justice requesting a delay. However she later pulled the petition, saying “Naama will not be a pawn for the Russian hacker and his people.”

Signing the extradition order Justice Minister Amir Ohana had rejected tying Issachar’s fate to Burkov, warning of grave consequences if Israel agreed to a swap.

“I suggest not creating a very dangerous precedent here, that each time there is a country that wants to have someone extradited, it captures an Israeli and makes a scapegoat of them,” Ohana told Kan public radio at the time.

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