Image: amza Bendelladj of Algeria (L), [Getty Images]
A sentencing hearing for Algerian hacker Hamza Bendelladj will start in the United States on Monday in a case that could see him face up to 60 years in jail for using a computer virus to steal millions from bank accounts.
Bendelladj, 28, who could also be hit with a fine of up to $14m, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiring to commit wire and bank fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, and 11 counts of computer fraud and abuse.
Calculations suggested his crimes may have cost at least $100m or, based on another estimate, up to $900m.
His lawyer, Jay Strongwater, told Al Jazeera the government was trying to show its calculations were reasonable when choosing to use the $100 million figure as a basis for sentencing.
That figure was based on an estimated loss of $500 for each of 200,000 sets of credit card details stolen from victims.
The $900m estimate was based on the cost of repairing damage to each hacked computer.
Strongwater said Bendelladj had co-operated with the government and expressed remorse, adding he believed the government would ask for a sentence below the maximum allowed.
SpyEye for sale
Bendelladj – who used the hacking alias BX1 – is believed to have been one of the main developers of the SpyEye program, a sophisticated and hugely popular virus that can be used to steal financial information such as credit card information and online banking log-in details.
US authorities said in a statement that Bendalladj and his associates aggressively tried to sell SpyEye to other hackers.
The government said a Russian co-defendant, Aleksandr Andreevich Panin, had sold SpyEye to 150 clients worldwide. Authorities said one such customer – known by the alias “Soldier” – made more than $3.2m in just six months.
Bendelladj was arrested in Thailand in 2013 and later extradited to the US.
Social media users claimed at the time that he had donated millions of dollars worth of stolen money to Palestinian charities – an unconfirmed claim that his lawyer has denied.