Maksym Igor Popov was born in the 80’s and basically grew up with computers. At the age of 15 he got his first PC and from then on became a hacker. By the age of 20, Maksym was part of an eastern European gang that had been raiding U.S companies, stealing credit card information, and extorting them.
This got the attention of the F.B.I who proceeded to investigate Maksym.
The F.B.I discovered that all Maksym wanted was a job in computer security so they proceeded to seduce him with the promise of working with them if he came to the U.S.A
On January 19th, 2001 Maksym Popov and an F.B.I escort boarded a TSA flight to the U.S.
Maksym was excited, he could sell his services to the F.B.I and then start his own computer security company, The F.B.I however, had different plans.
Shortly after landing Maksym was arrested and given an ultimatum, He could help the F.B.I take down his gang or go to jail.
Maksym decided to collaborate and proceeded to talk with his gang in chatrooms in Russian and help the F.B.I. 3 months later the F.B.I found out that he’d been using Russian colloquialisms to warn his associates that he’d been compromised. Maksym was removed from his safe house and thrown in jail.
In March 2002 up and coming F.B.I agent Ernest Hilbert was desperately trying to bring down a hackers website called Carderplanet and decided that he needed Maksym’s help.
Hilbert knew that Maksym felt betrayed and tried to build a trusting relationship by flattering Maksym, telling him he wouldn’t be taking down anyone he knew and that only Maksym was capable of doing this job.
This operation was called Ant City and in august 2002 Maksym was escorted from jail to a safe house for his first day at work. This quickly became a daily routine with Maksym buying up a small amount of stolen credit card numbers and getting them to send them to the U.S, thus making it a federal crime. He would then identify them by offering them what they all wanted, a job, Hilbert started a fake company called “Hermesplast” and they would get them to send their identification to this company.
Word of Ant city spread throughout the F.B.I so when in February 2003, 8 million credit card numbers were stolen due to a massive security breach, Hilbert was given the case.
Maksym posed as a potential buyer offering $200,000 and even sending a video of him showing the money to the camera. The Russian hacker took the bait.
28 months after arriving in the U.S, Maksym was set free but still had 3 years left of supervised release. He found it hard to adapt to life in orange county and Hilbert got a judges’ permission to return to Ukraine for a holiday, although Hilbert knew Maksym would never return.
On new years eve 2004 Maksym phoned Hilbert. He told Hilbert that Russians had hacked the AT&T network and now had access to the email of every agent with an FBI.gov account. Maksym offered to help Hilbert catch the perpetrators and managed to get in contact with the hackers involved and a deal was made, the FBI paid $10,000 and the stolen files were returned and Leonid Sokolov admitted to hacking AT&T.
On February 10th, 2005 the bombshell landed. Other corporations had been attacked too, and Maksym had been offering assistance at a price using Hilberts FBI status as a reference.
Leonid Sokolov and Maksym Popov had been working together all the time and had caused one of the most embarrassing episodes in FBI history.