NetWalker ransomware affiliate extradited to the US for further charges

Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins has already been sentenced to 138 months in a Canadian prison.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

The NetWalker ransomware gang affiliate who was sentenced to seven years in prison by Canadian courts at the end of January was extradited to the United States on Wednesday, where he will face further charges related to his participation in the gang.

Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins, a Canadian citizen, received the Canadian prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to five charges related to "theft of computer data, extortion, the payment of cryptocurrency ransoms, and participating in the activities of a criminal organisation".

The charges in Canada were for Vachon-Desjardins's involvement in 17 ransomware attacks that caused at least $2.8 million in damages. 

He also received an additional 54-month sentence in Canada for trafficking drugs in Quebec in the following weeks.

Vachon-Desjardins' extradition to the United States was originally set for an earlier date, but was delayed due to the Netwalker affiliate's drug trafficking charges in Canada being outstanding.

With Vachon-Desjardins now in the United States, he faces further charges that accuse him of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and wire fraud, intentional damage to a protected computer, and transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer.

If convicted in the United States, the 34-year old Canadian man could be required to forfeit over $27 million for his involvement with the NetWalker ransomware gang.

Vachon-Desjardins was arrested by Canadian police in January 2021 as part of an international law enforcement campaign targeting NetWalker.

After his arrest, law enforcement authorities discovered and seized 719 Bitcoin, valued at approximately $28.1 million, and around CA$1 million from Vachon-Desjardins's home in Gatineau, Canada.

"As exemplified by the seizure of cryptocurrency by our Canadian partners, we will use all legally available avenues to pursue seizure and forfeiture of the alleged proceeds of ransomware, whether located domestically or abroad," US Justice Department assistant attorney-general Kenneth Polite Jr said.

"The department will not cease to pursue and seize cryptocurrency ransoms, thereby thwarting the attempts of ransomware actors to evade law enforcement through the use of virtual currency."

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