Gift Card Scam Nets Tesla, Waterfront Home, and 9 Years

Ukranian hired by Microsoft to test system found a flaw
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2020 4:25 PM CST
Software Engineer Gets 9 Years for Gift Card Scam
A man wearing a mask looks at his phone outside the Microsoft office in Beijing, China, in August.   (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

As a tester for Microsoft, Volodymyr Kvashuk placed fake online orders to check the system. The software wouldn't allow products to be sent to testers, so there was no risk of the company being scammed. Except there was. Kvashuk, who was hired in 2016, discovered nothing stopped him from buying virtual gift cards, then using them to buy stuff. He bought a few things without setting off alarms, Wired reports, so in late 2017 and early 2018, he stepped it up. After running the credit through bitcoin and Coinbase, Kvashuk, 26, cleared at least $2.8 million over seven months, prosecutors said. It was enough to cover a $160,000 Tesla and a $1.6 million waterfront home. Convicted in January of wire fraud, money laundering, filing a false tax return, and other charges, Kvashuk now has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Kvashuk was fired in May 2018 after Microsoft investigators discovered the thefts, per GeekWire. Prosecutors said he told them he didn't mean to steal, he was working on a "special project to benefit the company." Kvashuk was ordered to pay $8.3 million in restitution; prosecutors said he stole $10 million. The difference in the amounts was caused by his selling the store credit at a discount. Kvashuk, a Ukranian citizen who lives in Renton, Wash., could face deportation once his prison stay ends. This is the nation’s first Bitcoin case with a tax component. Kvashuk's "sentencing proves you cannot steal money via the Internet and think that Bitcoin is going to hide your criminal behaviors," an IRS agent said in a statement. "Our complex team of cybercrimes experts with the assistance of IRS-CI’s Cyber Crimes Unit will hunt you down and hold you accountable for your wrongdoings." (More Microsoft stories.)

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