Suspected global bank heist boss killed

Dominican police said suspected cyber criminal Alberto Lajud-Pena killed on April 27 in San Francisco de Macoris.

Last Modified: 10 May 2013 21:34
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US Justice Department said ring hacked into credit card processing firms and ATMs in 27 countries [Reuters]

The suspected leader of the New York arm of a $45m global  bank heist was shot dead during an attempted robbery in the Dominican Republic last month, police have said.

Dominican police said on Friday that suspected cyber criminal Alberto Lajud-Pena, 23, was killed on April 27 in a house in the city of San Francisco de Macoris about 160km north-east of the capital, Santo Domingo.

Investigators found $100,000 in cash in the house, along with an M-16 assault rifle, two 9 mm pistols, a revolver, ammunition clips and a telescopic sight.

The money and weapons belonged to Lajud-Pena, police said, as more arrests were made in Germany over the elaborate international cyber crime that perpetuated one of the biggest bank heists in the world.

Lajud-Pena was one of eight men that US prosecutors said were part of the New York cell of the international criminal syndicate that stole from two Middle Eastern banks.

The US Justice Department said the ring hacked into credit card processing firms and withdrawing money from cash machines in 27 countries in December 2012 and February 2013.

Global ringleaders

It said the New York group stole $2.4m from almost 3,000 ATMs in the city during the space of 10 hours in February. Lajud-Pena's alleged co-defendants  were arrested in Yonkers, a New York City suburb that is home to a large Dominican population.

Lajud-Pena was shot and killed by a gang of three men, police in the Dominican Republic said.

It was not immediately clear if the gang or the $100,000 found at the house were linked to the cyber theft, or whether the trio had been arrested or if they escaped. 

The global ringleaders of the cyber theft are believed to be outside the United States, although prosecutors declined to give details, citing the continuing investigation.

But German prosecutors said on Friday that they had arrested two Dutch citizens suspected of involvement in the cyber heist.

German police confirmed that a 35-year-old man and a 56-year-old woman were caught on February 19 withdrawing 170,000 euros ($220,500) in Dusseldorf using Bank of Muscat credit cards.

A spokesman for the Dusseldorf prosecutor's office said that a total of $2.4 million had been withdrawn in seven German cities.

He said that the pair had come to Dusseldorf with the purpose of withdrawing the money in Germany. The two suspects are accused of computer fraud and faking credit cards.

Counterfeit cards

Germany's banking association, BdB, said it was not aware of any banks in Germany suffering losses as a result of the scheme.

US prosecutors allege that the hackers increased the available balance and withdrawal limits on prepaid MasterCard debit cards issued by Bank of Muscat of Oman, and National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah PSC (RAKBANK) of the United Arab Emirates.

They then distributed counterfeit debit cards to "cashers" around the world, enabling them to siphon millions of dollars from cash machines in a matter of hours, the US complaint said.

National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah (RAKBANK) chief executive Graham Honeybill said on Friday that the fraud against it took place in December 2012 and resulted in losses of about $4.7 million for the United Arab Emirates-based lender.

"This had been fully provided for before it closed its 2012 accounts," Honeybill said  in a written statement.

"We are given to understand that the overall fraud encompassed a number of banks not only in the Middle East but in the USA and other countries.

"The bank can confirm that none of its customers suffered any financial loss as a result of this fraud." 

Honeybill said it involved the bank's service provider in India, without naming the provider or giving any further details.




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