Ex-Canadian government official extradited to face ransomware attack charges

A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 file image. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

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WASHINGTON, March 10 (Reuters) – A former Canadian government official has been extradited to the United States to face criminal charges alleging he deployed ransomware known as “NetWalker” to target businesses, municipalities, hospitals and law enforcement at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Department of Justice said Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, 34, of Gatineau, Que., was extradited on Wednesday after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Florida.

Prosecutors said Vachon-Desjardins is accused of launching a series of ransomware attacks between April and December 2020.

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During a search of his home in January 2021, investigators found and seized 719 bitcoins, with an estimated value of over $28 million.

Vachon-Desjardins already faced parallel criminal charges in Canada earlier this year, including mischief related to computer data, extortion, unauthorized use of a computer and participation in a criminal organization, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

He pleaded guilty to three of those four counts on January 31, 2022. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

According to a LinkedIn profile of a Sébastien Vachon that appears to match his description, he previously worked as an IT consultant for Public Works and Government Services Canada.

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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; edited by Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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