A Canadian government employee thought to be involved in a series of crypto-related ransomware attacks has been extradited to the United States to face judgement. Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins – who worked as an IT consultant for Public Works and Government Services in Canada – is believed to have carried out attacks that led to approximately $28 billion in bitcoin being paid out by targeted individuals and enterprises throughout the Americas.
Vachon-Desjardins Will Face Charges in the U.S.
Vachon-Desjardins was extradited to the U.S. last Wednesday. He is now facing multiple charges for his alleged participation with the Net Walker ransomware group. Also known as “Mailto,” Net Walker is one of the most hazardous ransomware firms in existence. The enterprise is often employed by bad actors across the globe to engage in ransomware attacks against various companies, and in return for their services, Net Walker often garners a piece of the ransomware pie once payments have been made by the victims.
One of Net Walker’s most prolific targets was the University of San Francisco, which was targeted in June 2020. The school wound up having to pay more than $1 million to regain access to its private data, which the organization had encrypted.
It is also believed that between 2019 and 2021, the group repeatedly targeted the immigration agency of Argentina. These attacks ultimately led to more than $46 million in ransomware payments per data from blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis.
Vachon-Desjardins was initially arrested by Canadian law enforcement in early 2021 as part of an international effort to take down members of the Net Walker clan. Authorities searched his home in Quebec, Canada and came across 719 bitcoin units, which were valued at more than $28 million at the time. Vachon-Desjardins also possessed roughly $79,000 in Canadian currency.
As this was going on, the U.S. and Belgium worked to bring down a website owned by Net Walker that was allegedly being used to publish stolen data. Vachon-Desjardins was eventually sentenced to seven years behind bars in Canada after he pled guilty to five separate charges relating to computer data theft, extortion, and crypto ransom payments, though his journey didn’t stop there. With his extradition to the U.S., he now faces a whole new string of charges such as conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
His Bitcoin Could Wind Up Being Taken
If he’s convicted, he’ll likely be forced to give up his $28 million bitcoin fortune to the authorities. Assistant attorney general Kenneth Polite Jr. explained in a statement:
As exemplified by the seizure of cryptocurrency by our Canadian partners, we will use all legally available avenues to pursue seizure and forfeiture of the alleged proceeds of ransomware, whether located domestically or abroad. The department will not cease to pursue and seize cryptocurrency ransoms, thereby thwarting the attempts of ransomware actors to evade law enforcement using virtual currency.