A Canadian of Kazakh origin and living outside of Toronto is in police custody and on his way to the U.S. to be charged with computer hacking and economic espionage, according to The Canadian Press.
Karim Baratov, 22, is one of four suspects wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice in a high-level hacking of Yahoo, Google and other webmail accounts that was focused on U.S. government officials, Russian journalists who have been critical of their president, Vladimir Putin, and other regular users of the internet site.
More than 500 million accounts may be affected.
Baratov was living in the community of Ancaster, Ontario, where Toronto Police arrested him at the request of U.S. justice officials.
“Our job was to locate and arrest one of the people,” police spokesman Mark Pugash said. “We did that safely without incident.”
A California grand jury has indicted Baratov and three others — two of them are alleged to be members of the Russian Federal Security Service.
According to the justice department, the four are accused of using stolen information to gain “unauthorized access to the contents of accounts at Yahoo, Google and other webmail providers, including accounts of Russian journalists, U.S. and Russian government officials, and private-sector employees of financial, transportation and other companies.”
Moreover, “One of the defendants also exploited his access to Yahoo’s network for his personal financial gain, by searching user communications for credit-card and gift-card account numbers.”
According to Ancaster locals, Baratov was known for his extravagant lifestyle and for the expensive toys he enjoyed buying.
Mike Le, who owns “All In Detailings” in nearby Mississauga, Ontario, says Baratov specialized in classic cars and talked about being a “computer geek.” Though Baratov was outgoing and gregarious, he rarely ever spoke about his private life.
“All my friends know him too, and none of them know anything about his life,” Le said. “He’s very secretive about his life.”
That life included some lavish parties that Baratov would host several times a year, according to former neighbor Kerry Carter, who noted that he didn’t appear to have any form of employment: “he just drives up and down the street, and always has a different colored car.”
Baratov’s home was just put up for sale with an asking price of $939,000 but was taken off the market on Wednesday.
The justice department has already stated that if Baratov is convicted, it plans to appropriate his grey Aston Martin DBS car with a vanity plate reading “MR KARIM” and seize his PayPal account with the “Elite Space Corporation.”
A search of Baratov’s Facebook profile indicates that he was connected to a Russian-language website for Elite Space with “a server in Russia with any configuration and unlimited traffic” as well as “persistent domains in China.”
Police arrested Baratov under the extradition act. He made his first court appearance on Wednesday morning in Hamilton, Ontario.