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Inside the Arrest of Affiliate Fraud Mastermind Alexander Zhukov

Bulgarian authorities have arrested an accused Russian cybercriminal based on an Interpol warrant that originated with prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York.

Alexander Zhukov, a Russian national, was apprehended by police after he was indicted in absentia by U.S. prosecutors, according to Arkady Bukh, a New York-based attorney with a history of representing suspected hackers from Eastern Europe who has reached out to try to represent Zhukov.

Prosecutors accused Zhukov of  major affiliate fraud of $7 million, over several years — providing services that included possible form filling with stolen credit cards.

“There is widespread fraud from huge amounts of traffic getting directed through botnets,” said Bukh, describing the rise of ad fraud in general.

“Before, it was boys and girls in Russia sitting in boiler rooms clicking manual clicks in order to get apparent traffic to defraud affiliates,” he said. “Now it’s done by bots.”

According to insiders,Alexander Zhukov settled in Bulgaria, over the course of several years, Alexander Zhukov earned about $20,000 per month by driving up the number of advertisement views.

A BuzzFeed News investigation published last month revealed that more than 125 apps and websites were used as part of an ad fraud scheme connected to shell companies based in Bulgaria, Croatia, Malta and elsewhere. Scammers used those apps and websites to produce fake traffic while avoiding detection by anti-fraud tools, BuzzFeed reported.

The indictment from the Eastern District of New York is sealed and could remain so until Zhukov is extradited to the U.S., Bukh said. The U.S. Department of Justice and a spokesman from the Eastern District both declined to comment on the case. Interpol also declined to comment on the matter.

Zhukov, a St. Petersburg native, is accused of committing computer fraud from September 2014 to December 2016, causing more than $7 million in damages, the Russian media outlet Kommersant reported. The accused cybercriminal went by the name “Nastra,” the site said.

Zhukov was arrested Nov. 6th in Varna, a Bulgarian city situated on the Black Sea, where he had been living since roughly 2010, according to Kommersant.

Bulgaria’s Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the National Police Service, did not respond to a request for comment. The municipal court office in Varna also did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. and Bulgaria have a bilateral extradition agreement.

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Pesach Lattin

Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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