The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced in February that two men involved in an electronic taxi dispatch system hacking scheme at JFK International Airport will do jail time. Daniel Abayev was sentenced to four years in prison as leader of the scheme; Peter Leymanwas sentenced to two years in prison for his role. On October 4 and October 30, 2023, respectively, Leyman and Abayev each pled guilty to one count of conspiring to commit computer intrusion.

From at least September 2019 through September 2021, Leyman and Abayev, who are U.S. citizens residing in Queens, NY, and Aleksandr Derebenetc and Kirill Shipulin, who are Russian nationals residing in Russia carried out the crime. Derebenetc and Shipulin remain at large.

Beginning in 2019, Abayev, Leyman, Derebenetc, and Shipulin attempted various mechanisms to access the Dispatch System without authorization, including bribing someone to insert a flash drive containing malware into computers connected to the Dispatch System, obtaining unauthorized access to the Dispatch System via a Wi-Fi connection, and stealing computer tablets connected to the Dispatch System.

At various times between November 2019 and November 2020, the men successfully hacked the Dispatch System, using unauthorized access to alter the Dispatch System and move specific taxis to the front of the line, allowing drivers who paid an extra $10 to skip ahead of other drivers waiting in the line. A portion of the profits were transferred to Shipulin and Derebenetc. Over the course of the scheme, they enabled as many as 1,000 fraudulently expedited taxi trips a day.

In addition to the prison term, Abayev, 47, and Leyman were sentenced to three years of supervised release and each ordered to pay $161,858.26 in forfeiture and $3,456,169.50 in restitution.

Source: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York

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