Three New York-based members of an international cybercriminal ring pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to taking part in a massive scheme where financial firms lost $45 million.
The three men are Evan Jose Peña, who pleaded guilty last Tuesday, and Emir Yasser Yeje and Elvis Rafael Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty last month.
Peña, Yeje and Rodriguez were members of a cybercriminal organization that used stolen payment card data to make fraudulent ATM withdrawals all over the world, federal law enforcement officials said. A New York branch alone withdrew almost $2.8 million in just a few hours.
The cyberattacks launched by the crooks are “Unlimited Operations.” That’s because the scheme involves hacking into the systems of payment card processors and eliminating withdrawal limits and balances of certain accounts.
In addition, security protocols set in place to alert victims in case of an attack also end up disabled.
Peña, Yeje and Rodriguez took part in two such operations, federal officials said. One of them took place in December 2012 and targeted National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah PSC (RAKBANK) prepaid card accounts at a payment card processor.
In this case, 4,500 fraudulent ATM transactions took place in 20 countries, resulting in losses of around $5 million.
The second operation took place on February 19-20, 2013. The cybercriminals targeted a payment card processor that handled prepaid cards issued by Bank Muscat, a financial organization in Oman.
This time, 36,000 transactions took place in 24 countries. Over the course of 10 hours, the suspects managed to steal $40 million from ATMs, federal official said.
The three defendants face up to 7.5 years in prison.
“These three defendants participated in a criminal flash mob, using data stolen through the most sophisticated hacking techniques to withdraw millions of dollars in mere hours in an unprecedented cyber heist,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch.
“Their pleas demonstrate that the United States government will not relent in its efforts to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of these financially devastating cyberattacks.”