On Thursday, a US court sentenced an Israeli investigator to six and a half years in prison for organizing global hacking campaigns against thousands of people, including climate change activists and critics of the German company Wirecard.
Aviram Azari, a former police officer who has been in US custody since 2019, pleaded guilty last year to three counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit hacking and aggravated identity theft.
US District Judge John Koeltl issued the ruling during a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors had asked for Azari, 51, to be sentenced to eight to nine years in prison because his company made nearly $5 million over five years running hacking campaigns that targeted thousands of victims — including several public interest groups.
“Azzari was paid millions of dollars in exchange for supervising hacking groups and passing the fruits of their hacking to his clients,” the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in court papers. “He showed no respect for the harm done to his victims.”
His lawyer, Barry Zahn, asked for a sentence of no more than five years, arguing that Azari accepted responsibility and suffered a “debilitating medical condition” while in custody in New York.
Prosecutors said now-bankrupt payment processing company Wirecard, which was a member of Germany’s DAX index before filing for bankruptcy in 2020, hired Azari to attack individuals and financial companies that criticized the company.
Prosecutors say Azari also used hackers to steal emails from climate activists campaigning against US oil company ExxonMobil, which then cited media articles based on those messages to ward off investigations by US prosecutors.
Prosecutors did not charge Azari with any connection to Exxon, which denied any connection to Azari or his hacking campaign.
Azari was the subject of a Reuters investigation last year that revealed how he and other private investigators used mercenary hackers in India to help wealthy clients gain an advantage in lawsuits.
Zombie specialist. Friendly twitter guru. Internet buff. Organizer. Coffee trailblazer. Lifelong problem solver. Certified travel enthusiast. Alcohol geek.