(Bloomberg) -- A Georgia broker pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in an insider-trading ring that reaped millions of dollars in illicit profits from Ukrainian hackers who pilfered corporate press releases before they were published.
Leonid Momotok, of Suwanee, Georgia, admitted he controlled a brokerage account used in a five-year scheme. At a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes, he admitted he placed and profited from trades based on information he knew was stolen.
“I knew that this inside information was being passed to traders like myself and on the basis of this information, I executed trades on New York stock exchanges,” he said. “It was bad judgment and I am very sorry.”
Momotok, 48, was one of nine people charged in a case that federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and New Jersey described last year as the largest scheme of its kind ever prosecuted in both the scope of the alleged hacking and the number of traders involved.
Momotok was indicted on conspiracy, securities fraud, money laundering and other charges. The most serious crimes of securities fraud and wire fraud carry terms of as long as 20 years in prison.
As part of a plea deal, Momotok pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and agreed not to challenge a prison sentence of not more than nine years when he is sentenced Dec. 9. He and his attorney, Linda Moreno, declined to comment as they left the courtroom.
The case highlights an unusual intersection of securities fraud and hacking. Prosecutors said the ring employed a criminal alliance of traders and hackers who infiltrated PR Newswire Association LLC, Marketwired Inc. and Business Wire, obtaining more than 150,000 unpublished news releases ahead of market-moving news. Traders made about $30 million in illicit gains.
The ring gained access to the three services by launching a series of orchestrated cyber-attacks using malware and obtaining the log-in credentials of newswire employees, according to the government. Hackers then circulated “shopping lists” of companies about to issue news releases, such as Panera Bread Co, Caterpillar Inc., Home Depot Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the government said.
Members of the ring in the U.S. and the Ukraine, including Momotok, then traded on the leaked news releases ahead of their publication, prosecutors said. Millions of dollars were laundered when they were transferred to Europe, Asia and elsewhere using shell companies, according to the government.
Momotok’s co-defendant, Vitaly Korchevsky, called the alleged “linchpin” by prosecutors, is accused of making $17 million. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is awaiting trial. Another co-defendant, Alexander Garkusha, pleaded guilty in December and is cooperating with the U.S. He hasn’t yet been sentenced. A fourth man isn’t in custody.
Of the five charged in New Jersey, two have pleaded guilty and charges are pending against the other three, according to court records.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Information Management content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access