A Russian national, accused of being the ringleader in a cybercrime plan involving fraud of millions of dollars through a fake online advertising scheme, pleaded not guilty in Federal court after being extradited to the United States from Bulgaria.
Alexander Zhukov, 38, ended up indicted November 27 along with seven others, in the United States District Court Eastern District of New York.
After Zhukov appeared in the District Court in the Bulgaria after U.S. officials applied for his extradition, he said he had been in Bulgaria for eight years, four as a permanent resident.
Zhukov appeared in Federal court in Brooklyn Friday and entered a plea of not guilty.
Zhukov led the development of the data center-based scheme, according to the indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ). He served as the chief executive of Ad Network #1, a private corporation owned by him with offices in Russia and Bulgaria.
Ad Network #1 purported to assist customers with delivering advertisements to real human Internet users via its ad network, DoJ officials said.
Ad Network #1 had business arrangements with other advertising networks that enabled it to receive payment in return for placing advertising placeholders (“ad tags”) with publishers on behalf of those advertising networks, the indictment said.
“Rather than place these ad tags on real publishers’ webpages, however, Zhukov and others rented more than 1900 computer servers located at commercial datacenters in Dallas, Texas, and elsewhere, and used those datacenter computer servers to simulate humans viewing ads on fabricated webpages,” the indictment said.
“By using this infrastructure, the defendants accessed more than 1.7 million infected computers, belonging to ordinary individuals and businesses in the United States and elsewhere, and used hidden browsers on those infected computers to download fabricated webpages and load ads onto those fabricated webpages,” the indictment said. “Meanwhile, the owners of the infected computers were unaware that this process was running in the background on their computers. As a result of this scheme, Ad Network #2 falsified billions of ad views and caused businesses to pay more than $29 million for ads that were never actually viewed by real human internet users.”