Bank heists net $45M in global ATM/debit card raid

And you didn’t lose a dime — unless you are an investor in the banks, of course.  The heists took place in December and February but just now became public, thanks to an indictment filed yesterday in New York.  The gang raided accounts used by banks to backstop rechargeable pre-paid debit cards rather than attack depositor accounts, exploiting security gaps in that system.


Even with all that, crime didn’t pay — at least not for long:

A worldwide gang of criminals stole $45 million in a matter of hours by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards and then draining cash machines around the globe,federal prosecutors said Thursday — and outmoded U.S. card technology may be partly to blame.

Seven people are under arrest in the U.S. in connection with the case, which prosecutors said involved thousands of thefts from ATMs using bogus magnetic swipe cards carrying information from Middle Eastern banks. The fraudsters moved with astounding speed to loot financial institutions around the world, working in cells including one in New York, Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said. …

There were two separate attacks, one in December that reaped $5 million worldwide and one in February that snared about $40 million in 10 hours with about 36,000 transactions. The scheme involved attacks on two banks, Rakbank in the United Arab Emirates and the Bank of Muscat in Oman, prosecutors said.

The plundered ATMs were in Japan, Russia, Romania, Egypt, Colombia, Britain, Sri Lanka, Canada and several other countries, and law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen nations were involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors said.

How did the feds catch up with them?  Well, they may have figured out the sophisticated technology that allowed them to breach bank security, but they’re not exactly sophisticated themselves:


One of the suspects was caught on surveillance cameras, his backpack increasingly loaded down with cash, authorities said. Others took photos of themselves with giant wads of bills as they made their way up and down Manhattan.

In other words, tech smart and street dumb.

The leader of the gang didn’t get arrested yesterday, even though his name is on the indictment.  Why not?  Alberto Ysui Lajud-Pena got murdered in the Dominican Republic last month, and he may have been the target of a less-sophisticated kind of heist:

Lajud-Pena was found dead with a suitcase full of about $100,000 in cash, and the investigation into his death is continuing separately. Dominican officials said they arrested a man in the killing who said it was a botched robbery, and two other suspects were on the lam.

It looks like Lajud-Pena exercised the same kind of discretion about his loot as the rest of the network.  Want to bet that these two suspects aren’t taking pictures of themselves with wads of cash while walking on the streets?

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