May 11, 2013
Global Cybertheft Ring Arrested After Helping Steal $45 Million
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Eight individuals involved with a global cybertheft ring now face federal charges after allegedly stealing $45 million from banks in more than two dozen countries.
According to Chris Isidore of CNNMoney, the defendants were arrested and charged in New York after withdrawing $2.8 million from banks there in two separate attacks — one which took place in December and another that occurred in February.
US Attorney Loretta Lynch said the attacks took only a few hours to pull off, and as the eight were robbing money from the New York banks, colleagues from around the world completed similar withdrawals, netting the ring an additional $42 million. She told reporters authorities are still tracking down those additional suspects.
The theft is the largest to hit New York City since “the infamous $5 million Lufthansa heist at Kennedy Airport in 1978,” said New York Daily News reporter John Marzulli.
The first robbery took place on December 22 and involved the theft of five million dollars, while an additional heist on February 19 and 20 “proved to be the true jackpot, netting $40 million in 36,000 transactions within 10 hours,” he added. The thieves used ATM machines in order to pull off their operation, according to authorities.
“The ring used prepaid MasterCard debit cards that were issued by the National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah PSC, located in the United Arab Emirates, and the Bank of Muscat, located in Oman,” Isidore explained. “The thieves hacked into the banks' systems to drastically increase the amount available on the cards, and then used the information about the cards to withdraw money at banks around the world.”
The ringleader of the group´s New York cell, Alberto Yusi Lajud-PeÃ±a, was posthumously charged, as he was murdered last month in the Dominican Republic. The members took the doctored ATM cards and spread out in what Lynch called a complex and highly detailed operation comparable to “a virtual criminal flash mob.”
A total of 3,800 separate transactions were used to swipe the total of $2.8 million, CNNMoney said. During the December 2012 attack, 750 ATM transactions were performed at 140 different locations over a three hour span in New York alone. The February attack involved more than 3,000 ATM withdrawals over the course of 10 hours.
The arrests, which were announced on Thursday, took place over a six-week period beginning on March 27 and ending on Tuesday, Isidore said. They were part of a cooperative effort by law enforcement officials in the US, Japan, Canada, Germany and 13 other countries.
“Named in the indictments unsealed in Brooklyn Federal Court Thursday were Jael Mejia Collado, 23; Joan Luis Minier Lara, 22; Evan Pena, 35; Jose Familia Reyes, 24; Elvis Rodriguez, 24; Emir Yeje, 24; and Chung Yu-Holguin, 22. All reside in Yonkers,” said Marzulli. “Collado and Yu-Holguin are employed as bus drivers for private companies contracted by New York City schools“¦ They were arrested Wednesday night and ordered held without bail.”