Romeo Stepanenko, 3W3RR


The early years

The early yearszoomRomeo Stepanenko was born 1964 in the Ukraine, son of Vladimir Stepanenko UB1RR who most probably introduced him to amateur radio. Nothing is known, to date, of Romeo's childhood and youth, or of his military service. Nor do we know where and when he obtained his license.
His own accounts start in early 1989:

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1989: 3W3RR, Vietnam

1989: 3W3RR, VietnamzoomRomeo, meanwhile, had enrolled with a joint Soviet-Vietnamese company, Kiulong, and on that firm's payroll went to Vietnam, in late 1989.
The Minister of telecommunications of that country wanted to create an Amateur Radio Society; so, after a little thinking, I accepted a job to conduct courses for new hams, create a club station, produce rules and regulations for the Vietnamese. During the day I taught my hams-to-be; at night I got on the air and operated" 3W3RR.

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April/May 1990: 1S0XV/1S1RR, Spratly

April/May 1990: 1S0XV/1S1RR, SpratlyzoomExpedition-Video: hier - YouTube video here: : secure linkext. Link -- Quoting from Romeo's report: "By February <1990> I had established some good connections with the local officials in Saigon and started gathering information ... to look into the possibility of a Spratly operation. ... Finally it was becoming clear that this matter could be resolved only in Hanoi, at the highest level.

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January and December, 1991: YA0RR, Afghanistan

January and December, 1991: YA0RR, AfghanistanzoomThe idea of reactivating amateur radio in the middle of political chaos was certainly both a questionable and daring undertaking, but one man held on to this crazy idea: Romeo Stepanenko 3W3RR, who allegedly used his excellent personal contacts to further this adventure. Due to his secretive activities a widespread rumor stubbornly existed that Romeo may have been a high-ranking official of the Soviet secret service KGB. Romeo did not want to disclose how he obtained his license...

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Romeo's photo album (Courtesy ofSilversun)
1 - Flight Moscow-Tashkent / 2 - Fluight Tashkent - Kabul / 3, 4 - Kabul Airport / 5, 6 - Kabul street scenes / 7 - ??? / 8 - The Shack / 9 - On the road in Mazar-al-Sharif / 10 - Mazar-al-Sharif









1991: Moscow interlude for a new-born hero - and a trip around the world

The incredible career of Romeo Stepanenko - and a world-tour

1991: Moscow interlude for a new-born hero - and a trip around the worldzoomYouTube video: linkext. Link -- Russia's "White House" in Moscow is the seat of the Russian government. The building figured prominently on the morning of 19 August, 1991: Soviet officials launched a coup. Boris Yeltsin left for the Russian White House shortly after the coup was announced, encountering tanks and armored personnel carriers along the way. At 1 p.m. he climbed atop a tank positioned just outside the building, denounced the coup as unconstitutional, and called for Gorbachev's release from house arrest. Radio amateurs took a vital role during these dramatic hours.

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Romeo's Call Signs
1S0RR, 1S0XV, 1S1RR, 3W3RR/UF6F (earthquake rescue operation), 3W3RR/mm (South China Sea), 3W5JA, 3W7A, 3W8AA, 3W100HCM, 4J1FM, 4J1FW, 4J0Q, 4L/AH0M, 4U1ITU, 4U1VIC, 5A0RR, 9D0RR, 9H3UP, 9H50VE, 9Y4/AH0M, AH0M, AH0M/am (Bermuda Triangle perambulation), AH0M/VE2, AH0M/VE3, AH0M/W4 (Dry Tortugas Isl.), BY1PK, DL/AH0M, EK0JA, EK0RR/am (hot air balloon), EK0RR/mm (Russian Navy submarine), EW8TJ, FJ/AH0M, FS/AH0M, HB0/3W3RR, HB9/AH0M, IT9/AH0M (Etna volcano), J37/AH0M, J6/AH0M, JA3ZTN, JI1ZTA, KP2/AH0M, KP4/AH0M, LZ1KDP, LZ9A, LZ/AH0M, OE/AH0M, OK8ERR, OM9CRR, P5RS7, PJ2/AH0M, PJ7/AH0M, R3A (Russian Parliament, 20-21 August 1991), RB4JWS/UF1O (South Ossetia), RB4JWS/UF1Q (Adzharia), RB4JWS/UF1V (Abkhazia), RO/3W3RR (Pridnestrovie), S79R, TA1/3W3RR, TA2/3W3RR, UB5JRR, UB5JRR/UA6E (Mount Elbrus), UB5JRR/UA6X, UQ1GWW, V2A/AH0M, VP2E/AH0M, VP2M/AH0M, VP2M/AH0M/am (helicopter), VP5/AH0M, XE2/AH0M, XV2A, XV0SU, XV100HCM, XY0RR, YA0RR, YL1WW, YL75ID (Island of Death), as well as the guest operations courtesy to the friends' & clubs' hospitality worldwide: 5B4, 8Q7, 9H1, 9H4, A41, A61, AP2, DL, EA, EI, EP, ES, G, I, HA, HB9, HB0, JA, OE, OK, PA, SP, UA1-0, UC2, UD6, UH8, UI8, UL7, UO5, TA, VE2-3, VO2, VU2, W1-8, YK, YL, YO.




September 1991: XY0RR, Myanmar - and 1S0VX/1S1RR, Spratly, again

September 1991: XY0RR, Myanmar - and 1S0VX/1S1RR, Spratly, againzoomOnly a few days after his spectacular appearance in Moscow, Romeo landed his next coup, something just unthinkable (or so people thought at that time): From 30 August, 1991 he activated, the former Burma. It was the first (initially) recognized amateur rdsio operation after almost thirty years. No wonder that Myanmar ranked amongst the most wanted DXCC Entities worldwide. For two weeks four Soviet hams activated XYØRR.

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1992: 4J1FM 4J1FW Malyj Vysotskij island

1992: 4J1FM 4J1FW Malyj Vysotskij islandzoomYouTube video: linkext. Link



August 1992: 9D0RR, Iran / December 1992: P5RS7, North Korea

Romeo Stepanenko, the unsurpassed big gun of amateur radio...

August 1992: 9D0RR, Iran / December 1992: P5RS7, North KoreazoomIt was Romeo's greatest time. He was celebrated as a hero, invited to every major hamvention, honoured guest and everybody's darling. He obtained a US license and, in fact, collected call sign after call sign in incredibly short time - adding up to about fifty. Romeo was the highlight at the Dayton hamvention, in 1992, where we signed QSL cards and met his buddies. And the miracles continued: Romeo even topped his fame by activating another two "impossible" DXCC Entities.

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August 1993: 5A0RR, Libya

The Last Coup

August 1993: 5A0RR, LibyazoomRomeo states, "Originally, plans called for the use of six amateur radio operators for 5A, but due to the lack of funding we had to limit ourselves to three operators: Said (Libyan), who currently holds the call sign 5A0RR, Danny, LZ2UU and myself. During the operation, which lasted five days, we worked over 11,000 stations...

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February 1996: Romeo's decline and fall

The game is over

February 1996: Romeo's decline and fallzoomDX Bulletin 11 ARLD011 - From ARRL Headquarters Newington CT - February 21, 1996 -To all radio amateurs SB DX ARL ARLD011 ARLD011
Awards committee vote
The ARRL Awards Committee met recently to review submitted documentation for the 1992-93 P5RS7 operation submitted by Romeo Stepanenko. After a review of all material available, the Awards Committee voted unanimously to disqualify Romeo Stepanenko from participation in the DXCC program. This disqualification is based upon Rule 12, Operations Ethics, and Rule 13. The disqualification means that Stepanenko is not eligible to participate in the DXCC program in any manner. This includes, as provided for under Rule 12, paragraph (b) disallowance of contacts made with any station or DXpedition operated by him from the time of this action.

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Ending behind bars

Ending behind barszoomRomeo used various aliases due to his different jobs which dealt with different governments: names Romero Vega and Roman Vega were on his Guatemalan and Costa-Rican passports (with latest he was arrested in Cyprus). Based on information revealed by U.S. Secret Service, Romeo, aside of his Ukrainian and Russian passports issued on the name "Stepanenko", had been holding a few more passports: Estonian, Belgium, Greek, and United Kingdom, issued with the other different names. - He was arrested and extradited from Cyprus to the United States in March of 2004, and has been charged with 40 counts of wire fraud and trafficking in stolen credit card numbers. He is alleged to have done this in online chat rooms. He allegedly bilked over $3 million out of this scheme. Romeo has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He has been held in northern California, as he is considered a flight risk.
Romeo's trial was scheduled to begin in San Francisco on Monday, November 28, 2005.

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An update from Ed Kritsky...

30.05.10

An update from Ed Kritsky...Hello everyone,
I've gotten a letter from Roman ("Romeo") Stepanenko, aka Roman Vega, the one we know as 3W3RR (ex AH0M). He is an unwilling guest of the US Government, currently at MDC (Metropolitan Detention Center), in Brooklyn, NY.
It has been 7 (seven) years that he has been in this country, since he was extradited from Cyprus, accused of credit card fraud by our Dept of Justice. Somewhere on the internet there is a cheerful press release about that event, going back to 2003. Well, it is seven years later - and there has been no trial. Detention - yes, continued investigation - certainly, but NO TRIAL. Call me naive, but I would have difficulty believing this is possible in this country. Well, it is possible. Seven years is a long time to investigate a case against someone held in jail. IMHO, something is wrong with this picture. Or maybe the case isn't that solid? Draw your own conclusions, fellas. He is residing only few miles away, yet we had no contact over this time.
This is the first letter I received. I dare to guess that something is changing in his circumstances and he decided to write He doesn't speak about his case much. It is an intensely private matter. Apparently he doesn't want to share it with the worlds at this time. The reasons are obvious. Do you want to know if he is alive and well? He is, full of the usual "piss and vinegar". He is doing as well as he can within the jail confines. Romeo shares his cell with other inmates, all 120 of them. Call it a room with a view - allowing for a peek at distant Manhattan and Gowanus Expressway 40 ft away. His English has improved to the point of becoming his 'official' second language. He has spent last 3 years studying Japanese and other languages. Romeo is busy - his own library of about 150 books and a stack of books and
periodicals waiting to be read (he is subscribed to about 20), extensive letter writing to all sorts of people, excelling at yoga. His mood is upbeat and he keeps a very positive outlook on life and his own fate. This is the same unbending Romeo I knew back when he was in zenith of his worldwide fame, except showing more wisdom and reserve.
Do I think he is an angel with a snow-white consciousness? No, not really. Does he deserve our sympathy? That depends on which side of the fence you are on. I think that Amateur Radio world may have lost track of Romeo for awhile, but he is not forgotten. So, boys and girls, fan (and hate) mail may be sent to him directly: Roman Vega, # 59198-004, MDC, PO Box 329002, Brooklyn, NY 11232, USA. Letters, photos and QSLs are welcome - but
currency, checks or IRCs of any kind are strictly forbidden by jail regulations - DO NOT SEND them. (Romeo, ain't this ironic?) He promises a special jailhouse QSL when he gets out (another 'new one' from this DXpeditioner). Just don't expect one too soon )) To those inquiring minds who want to know: Is Romeo Stepanenko using me to get his name back in the limelight again? The answer is no. OK, maybe just a little bit. But I don't mind. He hasn't asked for anything. I'm posting this letter to the Amateur community totally on my own. Opinions expressed are my own and not Romeo's.
Reprint and duplication of this information in any form are freely permitted
73, Ed Kritsky, NT2X - May 30, 2010 - New York, USA



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...and an update from Romeo himself

Legal note: The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher of this web site.

...and an update from Romeo himself "Currently I am incarcerated in New York’s MDC (Metropolitan Detention Center) in Brooklyn. I was arrested almost 10 years ago and have still not been sentenced by the American court. I was last arrested in 2003 in Cyprus, alleged to be Boa and charged (on the base of very flimsy and circumstantial evidence) of being one of the organizers and leaders of the criminal hacker-carder syndicate CarderPlanet and BoaFactory. A year and a half after the arrest, in 2004, I was extradited from Cyprus to the United States. My extradition documents were cooked by Cyprus police, based on the Interpol order initiated by the U.S. Government.

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Romeo's "Jail QSLs"

05.12.12

Romeo's 'Jail QSLs'zoomObviously, Romeo doesn't have access to radio equipment while he is in jail. However, to receive his jail-QSL, it's unnecessary to make on-air QSO with him. The numbered jail-card will be sent to anyone whose card Romeo receives by mail at his current jail's address: "If your QSL-card makes it through the jail's censorship, and arrives into my hands, this means that the jail-QSO has indeed taken place. Henceforth, you will find your callsign in the 3W3RR jail-pedition log linkext. Link as well as on twitter @RomanVega_com. Afterwards you will receive by snail mail a 3W3RR jail-pedition numbered QSL card. According to the jail's mail policies, a prisoner is only permitted to receive letters, postcards, photos and printouts. QSLs are considered postcards, and generally make it through. Do not send IRCs, postage stamps, green stamps or S.A.S.E., as all of these are considered contraband and immediately trashed (frequently along with the entire envelope's contents). Books and magazines mailed from private parties are not permitted. CDs and DVDs are also prohibited,."
Send your QSL-cards only, nothing else, to the current jail's address:
Roman Vega / # 59198-004 / MDC Brooklyn / P.O.Box 329002 / Brooklyn, NY 11232, U.S.A.
(Note: Romeo was transferred, in April 2015, to Georgia (CI McRae).
Prior to mailing Romeo a QSL card, better to verify that he hasn't been transferred to another jail by checking his current address at linkext. Link

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December 2013: The verdict - 18 years!

15.12.13

December 2013: The verdict - 18 years!zoomUkrainian National Who Co-Founded Cybercrime Marketplace Sentenced To 18 Years In Prison
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2013
Roman Vega Co-Founded CarderPlanet, One of the First Online Marketplaces for Stolen Financial Data
BROOKLYN, NY – Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, Roman Vega, one of the world’s most prolific cybercriminals, was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Vega, a Ukrainian national who co-founded the notorious Internet website CarderPlanet, pled guilty in 2009 to conspiracies to commit money laundering and access device fraud. At the time of his arrest, Vega possessed over half a million stolen credit card numbers.

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