Five more arrested in $56m global cybercrime scheme

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Five people were arrested and charged on Monday for participating in a worldwide ATM heist that stole US$45 million (S$56 million) from two Middle East banks.

The four men and one woman, all in their 20s and residents of the New York City suburb of Yonkers, were accused of being members of a global cybercrime organisation that stole Mastercard Inc debit-card information, according to an announcement from Ms Loretta Lynch, the United States (US) Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for Ms Lynch's office, declined to comment on where the organisation is based, saying the investigation was ongoing.

The five arrested on Monday were "cashers" in the scheme, withdrawing approximately US$2.8 million from more than 140 different ATMs in New York City, according to the US Attorney's office.

The hackers stole debit card data from the National Bank of Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates and Bank Muscat in Oman in two attacks in December 2012 and February 2013, according to prosecutors.

They broke into payment processing companies used by the two banks and raised the balances and withdrawal limits on the cards, prosecutors said. Crews in more than 20 countries, such as the cell arrested onMonday, then withdrew US$5 million between December 21 and December 22 and US$40 million between February 19 and February 20.

The defendants arrested Monday, Anthony Diaz, 24, Saul Franjul, 23, Saul Genao, 24, Jaindhi Polanco, 29, and Jose Angeley Valerio, 25, were charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud. They each face up to 7.5 years in prison and a fine of up to US$250,000, according to the announcement.

The five were expected to be arraigned on Monday afternoon. It could not be immediately determined if they were represented by lawyers.

A sixth defendant, Franklyn Ferriera, is a fugitive, according to the announcement.

Prosecutors said that days after the February attack, Franjul packed approximately US$800,000 in cash into luggage that was sent by bus to one of the heist's organisers, Alberto Yusi Lajud-Pena.

Lajud-Pena, also known as "Prime" and "Albertico," was murdered April 27 in the Dominican Republic.

"After exploiting cyber-weaknesses in the financial system to steal millions from ATMs, these defendants were packing bags to the brim with stolen cash, destined for the cybercriminal organisers of these attacks," Ms Lynch said in a statement on Monday.

The arrests came six months after prosecutors in Brooklyn announced charges against eight others in the scheme, including Lajud-Pena.

Four other defendants have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, while three have pleaded not guilty, according to Mr Nardoza.

Authorities in Germany arrested two Dutch citizens in February for their involvement in the scheme after they were caught withdrawing money at cash machines in Dusseldorf.