A gang of cyber-criminals operating in 26 countries stole $45 million by hacking their way into a database of prepaid debit cards, federal prosecutors in New York said Thursday.
The U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta Lynch, called it “a massive 21st-century bank heist” and said the fraudsters had moved with astounding speed to loot financial institutions around the world.
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. An eighth person accused of involvement in the U.S. thefts, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena, was reportedly murdered in the Dominican Republic late last month, prosecutors said.
An indictment unsealed Thursday accused the eight of being members of the New York cell of a global theft operation. It said they withdrew $2.8 million in cash from hacked accounts in less than a day.
Prosecutors said the scheme involved two worldwide attacks in which hackers obtained debit card data, eliminated withdrawal limits on the accounts, and then sent a network of operatives fanning out across multiple cities to rapidly withdraw money.
Law enforcement agencies in Japan, Canada, Germany, Romania and 12 other countries have been involved in the investigation, U.S. prosecutors said.
Arrests began in March.