Financial institutions in Nebraska were among the targets of two Russians accused of stealing more than $70 million through a computer hacking operation, federal officials said Thursday.

Federal indictments were unsealed against the two Thursday in Lincoln and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The financial institutions named in the government documents include Bank of America, First National Bank of Omaha, Husker Ag LLC of Plainview and Union Bank and Trust of Lincoln. 

Federal authorities contend that the conspirators unleashed "Zeus" malware as a financial service Trojan horse to steal banking details from infected devices.

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh returned a 10-count indictment against Maksim V. Yakubets, 32, of Moscow, Russia, and Igor Turashev, 38, of Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, in connection with the distribution of “Bugat,” a multifunction malware package designed to automate the theft of confidential personal and financial information.  

The criminal complaint unsealed in Lincoln charges Yakubets with conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with the “Zeus” malware. Beginning in May 2009, Yakubets and multiple co-conspirators are alleged to have perpetrated a long-running conspiracy to employ widespread computer intrusions, malicious software and fraud to steal millions of dollars from numerous bank accounts. 

The complaint said thousands of business computers were infected with malicious software that captures passwords, account numbers and other information necessary to log into online banking accounts. That captured information then was used to steal millions of dollars from victims’ bank accounts.

“The Zeus scheme was one of the most outrageous cybercrimes in history,” said Joe Kelly, the U.S. attorney for Nebraska. “Our identification of Yakubets as the actor ... is a prime example of how we will pursue cyber criminals to the ends of justice no matter how long it takes, by tracking their activity both online and off and working with our international partners to expose their crimes.”

Yakubets and his co-conspirators are alleged to have victimized 21 specific municipalities, banks, companies, and nonprofit organizations in Nebraska, Iowa, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington. 

The State Department, in partnership with the FBI, is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Yakubets, who is alleged to be the leader of the Zeus scheme.

The U.S. Treasury Department said Yakubets worked for the Russian Federal Security Service, an intelligence agency known as the FSB that’s already under U.S. sanctions, and was directed to work on projects for the Russian state as of 2017, Bloomberg News reported.

Another target listed in the criminal complaint was Doll Distributing of Des Moines, a company that banks with First National Bank of Omaha. Doll Distributing reported that it found two fraudulent payments totaling $59,222 in 2009. A "money mule" was hired on each occasion to accept wire transfers and then move the money outside the U.S., officials said.

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kevin.cole@owh.com, 402-444-1272

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