Hacker who tried to extort Tesla pleads guilty

Russian national Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov could now face a lighter sentence.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Russian national accused of trying to hack and extort Tesla has pleaded guilty, avoiding a jury trial and a possible long stay in prison, The Record has reported. Egor Igorevich Kriuchkov will be sentenced to the charge of "conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer" (i.e., hacking), according to the plea deal.

The original DoJ complaint reads like a (bad) spy movie. In the summer of 2020, Kriuchkov traveled to the US at the behest of a Russian cybercrime gang and contacted a Russian-speaking worker at the Tesla Gigafactory in Sparks, Nevada. Kriuchkov allegedly proposed to pay the employee $1 million to deliver malware to computer systems at the Gigafactory. He and his associates supposedly planned to extract data from the network and threaten to release it if Tesla didn’t pay a ransom.

The employee immediately informed Tesla about this brilliant scheme and the company contacted the FBI. Agents launched a sting operation and arrested Kriuchkov as he was attempting to leave the US. Kriuchkov would have received $250,000 for recruiting the employee, according to FBI recordings.

Kriuchkov originally pleaded not guilty to the charges filed on September 3, 2020. A jury trial was planned for September 2021, and if found guilty, he could have faced to up five years in jail, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. With the guilty plea, however, Kriuchkov is now looking at between four and 10 months with three years of supervised release. He'll receive no fine but must pay Tesla $14,824.88 in restitution. The plea deal is subject to prosecutorial approval and the hearing is set for May 10th, 2021.