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Cyber ATM Robbers Grab $45 Million Worldwide Within Hours

May 10, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to a major cyber-theft, global in scope and raising new questions about our vulnerabilities in the digital age.

The thefts took place in broad daylight at ATM machines, and the thieves wore no disguises.

U.S. ATTORNEY LORETTA LYNCH, Eastern District Of New York: This was a 21st century bank heist that reached through the Internet to span the globe.

JEFFREY BROWN: U.S. authorities say the reach of the international cyber-crime was wide: 27 countries — Russia, Japan, Egypt, Colombia, Canada and beyond.

The criminals hacked into companies that process prepaid debit cards for two banks in the Middle East, stole the data and then copied it onto doctored cards with magnetic strips. Yesterday in New York, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch explained what happened next.

LORETTA LYNCH: They become a virtual criminal flash mob, going from machine to machine, drawing as much money as they can before these accounts are shut down.

JEFFREY BROWN: On Dec. 21st, thieves hit 4,500 ATMs in some 20 countries, stealing five million dollars. Then on Feb. 19th, they upped their game. In 10 hours, they stole $40 million dollars in 36,000 transactions worldwide.

In Manhattan alone, a team of eight so-called “cashers” allegedly made their way from ATM to ATM making 2,900 withdrawals totaling $2.4 million dollars.

Two of the suspects took photos of themselves and the stacks of cash they allegedly stole. To round out the crime, authorities say the suspects laundered the money by purchasing luxury goods in the form of Rolex watches, Gucci bags and expensive cars.