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Russian accused of hacking US businesses' computers pleads not guilty to 29 charges

SEATTLE - A Russian lawmaker's son accused of hacking computers at hundreds of U.S. businesses and stealing credit card information pleaded not guilty to 29 charges Friday.

U.S. District Judge John L. Weinberg ordered Roman Seleznev, of Vladivostok, Russia, held without bail until a hearing Aug. 16 to consider his custody status. His trial has been set to begin Oct. 6.

A 2011 grand jury indictment alleges Seleznev stole more than 200,000 credit card numbers and sold more than 140,000 of them, generating more than $2 million in profits. Some of the victims are in Seattle, where the investigation was centred and an indictment was filed.

Seleznev was arrested last month at an airport in the Maldives and flown to the U.S. territory of Guam, where another federal judge sent him to Seattle to face the charges.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the U.S. government of kidnapping Seleznev.

At the hearing Friday, he spoke through an interpreter, mostly answering "yes" or "no" to the judge's questions. When asked if he understood the charges against him, Seleznev said, "I understand all of it, but all of it is untrue."

Court documents say the scheme involved hacking into computers that run point-of-sale terminals in businesses and installing malware to capture credit card numbers. Most of the companies affected between October 2009 and February 2011 were small businesses like pizza parlours.

In a statement issued after Friday's hearing, U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said distance is not an effective strategy for avoiding prosecution.

"Cyber-criminals should take heed: Distance will not protect you from the reach of justice. We will investigate, we will locate, and we will bring foreign hackers to stand trial," Durkan said.

The 29 charges against Seleznev comprise five counts of bank fraud, eight counts of intentionally causing damage to a protected computer, eight counts of obtaining information from a protected computer without authorization, one count of possession of 15 or more stolen credit card numbers with intent to defraud, two counts of trafficking in those stolen numbers, and five counts of aggravated identify theft.

The charges carry a variety of potential penalties, with some counts punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Seleznev also is charged in a 2012 indictment filed in Nevada that accuses him of participating in a racketeer-influenced corrupt organization, conspiracy and possessing stolen credit card number. He is one of 55 defendants in that case.

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