Aussie Tech Entrepreneur Extradited Over SMS Fraud
A Russian-born tech entrepreneur has been extradited to the United States from Australia to face charges relating to a multi-million-dollar text messaging consumer fraud scheme.
The arrival in America of 41-year-old dual Russian and Australian citizen Eugeni Tsvetnenko was announced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Friday. Tsvetnenko – also known as “Zhenya” – was extradited on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors allege that former Perth resident Tsvetnenko conspired with others to operate an auto-subscribing scheme that signed cell phone users to receive premium paid for content via text message without their knowledge or consent.
“Eugeni Tsvetnenko is alleged to have surreptitiously subscribed hundreds of thousands of cell phone users to a $9.99 per-month charge for recurring text messages they did not approve or want,” said US attorney Damian Williams.
Victims of the scheme received text messages on horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia facts. The scheme’s operators defrauded victims of approximately $41,389,725 and made around $20m in profits.
Tsvetnenko’s alleged co-conspirators include Darcy Wedd, the operator of telecommunications company Mobile Messenger, and Fraser Thompson, Mobile Messenger’s senior vice president of strategic operations.