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Five Arrested with Bags of Cash After Mass Cyber Heist

Department of Justice(NEW YORK) -- Five men arrested Monday in New York “were packing bags to brim [sic] with stolen cash,” federal prosecutors said as they announced new developments in a “massive cyber heist” that siphoned tens of millions from the global financial system.

The men were accused of being members of the New York-based cell of an international hacking organization that carried out a so-called Unlimited Operation, a term used by cybercriminals to indicate the potential scope of the theft.

Anthony Diaz, Saul Franjul, Saul Genao, Jaindhi Polanco -- all citizens of the Dominican Republic -- and Jose Angeley Valerio were charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud.  Court records say they collaborated with six other men who were previously indicted.

“Just a few months ago, after exploiting cyber-weaknesses in the financial system to steal millions from ATMs, these defendants were packing bags to brim [sic] with stolen cash,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.  “Today we have sent them packing once again -- but this time to jail.”

According to court records, the hackers targeted prepaid debit cards issued by Rakbank, based in the United Arab Emirates, and Bank Muscat, based in Oman.  They eliminated withdrawal limits from compromised accounts, then sent teams of “cashers” to make simultaneous withdrawals from ATMs all over the globe. 

In one operation there were thousands of coordinated ATM transactions in 24 countries over the course of 10 hours between Feb. 19 and 20, 2013.  In that time, $40 million was stolen, prosecutors said. The New York cell alone withdrew nearly $3 million at 140 different ATMs in a matter of hours. Previously, $5 million was stolen with a similar tactic in December 2012.

In May 2013, eight other suspects were indicted for their alleged role in the heist.  Four have pleaded guilty.

“This case is another example of the ability of cybercriminals to inflict significant damage to world financial systems,” said Steven Hughes, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service New York field office.

Prosecutors said they have “exceedingly strong” evidence that includes ATM transaction logs, surveillance images and photos the defendants took.  One of them purportedly shows $800,000 cash packed into luggage destined for Miami. 

“These defendants also used the funds to celebrate their windfalls by spending thousands of dollars at nightclubs and to go on shopping sprees for luxury goods,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Sarratt wrote in a court filing.

The men arrested Monday in and around Yonkers are due in court for arraignment Monday afternoon.  Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold them without bail.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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