U.S. prosecutors charged eight New York "cashers" for their role in a global cybercrime ring that caused $45-million in losses from financial institutions and involved 26 countries.
Prosecutors with the US attorney's office in Brooklyn filed criminal charges against eight individuals who were members of a New York-based "cashing crew" that allegedly used stolen prepaid debit card numbers to withdraw $2.5-million in cash from New York ATMs in less than 24 hours.
Alberto Yusi Lajud-Penza, the crew's alleged leader known as "Prime", was also charged. However, prosecutors believe he was murdered last month.
The charges are part of a growing effort by U.S. law enforcement to punish cybercriminals who use networks with cells around the globe to break into financial institutions to steal billions of dollars, and corporate firewalls to swipe intellectual property. U.S. authorities have said cybercrime poses one of the biggest threats to US security and the economy.
"These attacks rely upon both highly sophisticated hackers and organized criminal cells whose role is to withdraw the cash as quickly as possible," prosecutors said on Thursday.
The men involved in the alleged scheme, known as "Unlimited Operations" for the ability to steal unlimited amounts of money until the breach is detected, ranged in age from 22 to 34 years and lived just north of New York City.
Prosecutors charged the cashers for their role in two schemes in which hackers broke into a U.S. credit card processor and an Indian-based credit card processor that handles Visa and MasterCard prepaid debit cards.
The hackers allegedly gained access to accounts held at the National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah, Rakbank, and the Bank of Muscat, and increased withdrawal limits on the cards so the network of cashers could make unlimited withdrawals from the accounts.
In one alleged hacking in December, five accounts at Rakbank were compromised and those prepaid debit card numbers were distributed to cashers located in 20 countries. The individuals charged in the case allegedly encoded the compromised account numbers on to magnetic strips of other cards and used them at New York ATMs to withdraw approximately $5.6-million.
In the second operation in February, prosecutors allege hackers increased withdrawal limits for prepaid debit cards issued by the Bank of Muscat. Over 10 hours, authorities allege, cashers in 24 countries executed 36,000 transactions causing $40-million in losses.
US authorities have seized $160,647 in cash, two Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust watches, a Mercedes SUV and said they were in the process or forfeiting a Porsche Panamera. Both vehicles were allegedly purchased using $250,000 obtained as part of the scheme.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering. They face up to 10 years in prison on the money laundering counts.