They didn't use guns, masks or even threatening notes passed to bank tellers. It may be the largest bank robbery in history. A gang of cyber-criminals operating in 26 countries stole $45 million by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards.
Reportedly, the group of hackers targeted weaknesses in how banks and payment processors handle prepaid debit cards. Authorities said they arrested these seven U.S. citizens and residents of Yonkers, New York: Jael Mejia Collado, Joan Luis Minier Lara, Evan Jose Peña, Jose Familia Reyes, Elvis Rafael Rodriguez, Emir Yasser Yeje and Chung Yu-Holguin.
The eighth defendant charged in the indictment, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Peña, also known as 'Prime' and 'Albertico,' was murdered on April 27 in the Dominican Republic.
They're suspected of working with hackers who twice broke into credit card processing companies' computer systems, stole ATM card data and bypassed the withdrawal limits on the accounts.
In February, the hackers broke into the system of a U.S.-based credit card processor to steal account numbers for prepaid Mastercard debit cards issued by Bank of Muscat, the indictment said. The second operation was far larger than the first attack, eventually totaling $40 million in losses to Bank of Muscat.
The technique is known as an "unlimited operation," as the thieves can grab a potentially unlimited amount of cash. Law enforcement agencies in Japan, Canada, Germany, Romania and 12 other countries have been involved in the investigation, US prosecutors said. Arrests began in March.
If convicted, they would face a maximum 10-year prison terms on each money laundering charge, 7.5 years on the access device fraud count and up to $250,000 in fines.