There is an old Romanian saying that roughly translates to “she can make a whip out of s—,’ meaning, René Kreutz tells me, that she is resourceful, even when working with s—. And she has had to a few times.
She is a Romanian cybercriminal. Was. Is? She is tugging on the collar of a Brooks Brothers raincoat. Her hair is a different color now than the auburn she describes from the old days, her bad girl days.
She has a good, mid-level executive title now with a nice, well-known corporation. (Some names, locations and personal details have been changed to protect confidential sources.)
These have been easy to acquire, she says. She navigates the corporate world deftly. Never get complacent, just keep moving up and if you can’t move up, move over, she says. She is beautiful but in a way that blends in nicely. She wouldn’t stand out on your morning commute.
But once upon a time, she brought CEOs to their knees with a few well-placed emails and well-timed phone calls. Then she fell in love with a tyrant and fled Romania when she was just barely finished being a teenager. Now she’s here, and I can’t tell you why I met her because we also share a common secret. She looks 10 years older than her actual age. It’s not stress in her face. It’s the pearl earrings, the dark leather laptop bag. It’s on purpose.
She stresses just how out she is, out of that world, so freeing, she just wants to live the simple life.
But did you hear, she asks me, about that Lithuanian man who died, leaving behind an encrypted laptop – he was a notorious carder, she said, someone who deals in stolen credit card numbers on the darkweb. “Everyone’s trying to break it,” she says, meaning the encryption on the laptop. “They think there’s $10 million, $20 million on it,” she says, meaning in bitcoin, procured over a decade spent in the fraudulent credit card trade.
“Everyone?” I ask.
She nods, she’s smiling in a way that’s a little far off, like she forgot her guard a little. “That’s strange,” I say, because, “didn’t you say,” and I stop myself before asking her what she means by everyone, because surely it wasn’t her contacts from the criminal underground with whom she’s no longer in touch. This story hasn’t been in the news much.
This is what she says.