A Russian man convicted on wire fraud and money laundering charges for his role in the Methbot digital advertising scheme was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Wednesday.
The Department of Justice said between September 2014 and December 2016, Aleksandr Zhukov, 41, and several co-conspirators made deals with ad networks to place online ads but used a bot farm and rented servers to simulate users visiting spoofed versions of websites like the New York Times and the New York Daily News. The ads were never shown to human users, but Zhukov raked in $7 million running the fake traffic scam (which became known as “Methbot,” after the name of his phony ad network Media Methane), according to the DOJ.
“Sitting at his computer keyboard in Bulgaria and Russia, Zhukov boldly devised and carried out an elaborate multi-million-dollar fraud against the digital advertising industry, and victimized thousands of companies across the United States,” US Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement.
As part of the elaborate plan, Zhukov recruited programmers and others to help build the infrastructure that made the scheme possible. Authorities said he referred to the recruits as his developers and to himself as “the king of fraud.”
In May, a jury convicted Zhukov of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and money laundering. In addition to the 10-year prison term, Zhukov was ordered to pay $3.8 million in forfeiture.