A Filipino-Cypriot young man who was extradited to the United States last year on cyber crime charges has pleaded guilty after reaching a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Joshua Polloso Epifaniou, a 21-year-old known in local media as “Cypriot hacker,” was flown in July out of Cyprus while in custody of US Marshals, after a long legal battle on the island, to face multiple cyber charges in Georgia and Arizona, including intrusion and money extortion.
On Monday, Epifaniou appeared before a federal judge in Atlanta where he pleaded guilty to accessing multiple major websites based in the United States without authorization, stealing user data, and demanding that the website operators pay a ransom to prevent his release of the data.
According to Acting US Attorney Bobby L. Christin, “Epifaniou hacked into US-based websites and threatened the disclosure of stolen personal information belonging to users, unless the websites paid him large ransoms.”
'His arrest, extradition, and conviction demonstrate our resolve to bring to justice any hackers, no matter where they reside'
“His arrest, extradition, and conviction demonstrate our resolve to bring to justice any hackers, no matter where they reside,” Christin said.
Epifaniou made history by being the first Cypriot national to be extradited from the Republic of Cyprus to the United States. He was initially accused of being involved in a May 2017 network attack against Cablenet, a private telecommunications service provider in Cyprus. He was then suspected of being involved in overseas hacking and was wanted by the FBI in connection with wire fraud cases involving attacks on US companies between 2014 and 2016 in Georgia and Arizona.
Prior to entering his plea, according to state sources, Epifaniou paid nearly $600,000 in restitution to the victims and agreed to forfeit an additional $389,113 and nearly €70,000 to the government in his plea agreement.
Previous reports suggested Epifaniou had reached a deal with FBI prosecutors, who could recommend that the Cypriot national either return to Cyprus for time served, while he was locked up in Cyprus awaiting trial, or do additional time up to 15 months “in a worst case scenario.”
Knews previously reported that the FBI had hoped to use the teen’s case to catch bigger fish, as he was suspected to have had connections with other hackers on a global level.
Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. said "the successful prosecution of this case would not have been possible without the help of our federal and foreign partners, including the government of Cyprus.”
Sentencing has been scheduled for March 3.