Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Global Thieves Take $45 Million at Atms

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Global Thieves Take $45 Million at Atms

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- It was a huge bank heist -- but a 21st-century version in which the criminals never wore ski masks, threatened a teller or set foot in a vault.

Yet, in two precision operations that involved operatives in more than two dozen countries acting in close coordination and with surgical precision, thieves stole $45 million from thousands of ATMs in a matter of hours. In New York City alone, a team of eight people struck 2,904 machines over 10 hours Feb. 19, withdrawing $2.4 million.

The operation included sophisticated computer experts operating in the shadowy world of Internet hacking, manipulating financial information with the stroke of a few keys, as well as common street criminals, who used that information to loot the automated teller machines.

The first to be caught was a street crew operating in New York -- their pictures captured as they traveled the city, withdrawing money and stuffing backpacks with cash.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn unsealed an indictment charging eight members of the New York crew -- including their suspected ringleader, who was found dead April 27 in the Dominican Republic -- offering a glimpse into what authorities said was one of the most sophisticated and effective cybercrime attacks ever uncovered. It was, prosecutors said, one of the largest heists in New York City history, rivaling the 1978 Lufthansa robbery that inspired the movie "Goodfellas."

Beyond the sheer amount of money involved, law enforcement officials said, the robbery underscored the vulnerability of financial institutions around the world to clever criminals working to stay a step ahead of the latest technologies designed to thwart them.

"In the place of guns and masks, this cybercrime organization used laptops and the Internet," said Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn. …

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