Queen of WorldPay cash-machine scam sent down for 2.5 years

Hi-tech Fagin herded money mules


A Nigerian woman has been jailed for two-and-a-half years in the US after she was found responsible for playing a key role in the infamous $9m WorldPay payment card scam back in 2008.

Sonya Martin, 45, was convicted of managing a team of Chicago money mules who withdrew money from cash cards that had been loaded with looted funds. Cybercrooks had topped-up the payroll debit cards by breaking the encryption used to protect their sensitive financial data. Such cards are used by some firms to pay workers.

Hackers used compromised access to WorldPay's systems to raise the account balance and withdrawal limits on targeted accounts before forging 44 payment cards associated with these compromised accounts. Funds were then withdrawn from these accounts in an overnight cash-out operation involving 2,100 ATMs in at least 280 cities in the US, Russia, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada in a coordinated operation on 8 November 2008, the FBI said.

The gang monitored the progress of the cash-out operation in real-time using WorldPay's own computer systems before attempting (unsuccessfully) to erase their tracks. Infamous hacker Albert Gonzalez masterminded the whole scam as well as other credit card megabucks against TJ Maxx, Heartland Payments Systems and others. Gonzalez was jailed for 20 years in the spring of 2010.

The FBI said Martin managed a cash-out crew in Chicago that used counterfeit debit cards to fraudulently withdraw approximately $80,000 from various Chicago ATMs. She was arrested in March last year when she attempted to board a flight from New York to London. Martin will have to serve five years on probation after her release, as well as paying back $89,000 in restitution for her crimes.

An FBI statement on Martin's sentencing can be found here. ®

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