US attorneys have charged thirteen people in connection with a massive fraud operation which netted some $2m in stolen funds.
The Manhattan District Attorney's office says that four defendants masterminded a plot to install card skimming devices at gas pumps throughout the southern US and then use a network of money mules to withdraw and transfer funds from the stolen cards in a money laundering operation.
According to District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the four defendants installed the skimmers inside pumps at Raceway and Racetrac chain gas stations in Texas, South Carolina and Georgia. The skimmers, which were rigged with Bluetooth connectivity and invisible from outside the pump, could then be remotely accessed by the group.
Having the stolen card data and PIN numbers from customers, the four were then said to have printed out forged bank cards and withdrew the cash from ATMs in amounts less than $10,000 and redeposit the funds in a series of bank accounts around Manhattan.
Using a collection of nine money mules located in California and Nevada, the funds were once again withdrawn in a series of small transactions at designed to avoid police detection and redistributed. In total, authorities believe that the operation employed the use of 70 different accounts controlled by various members of the group as part of the laundering attempt.
"Cybercriminals and identity thieves are not limited to any geographic region, working throughout the world behind computers," Vance said.
"In this case, the defendants are charged with stealing personal identifying information from victims in southern states, used forged bank cards on the East Coast, and withdrew stolen proceeds on the West Coast."
The attorney's office said that the four ringleaders in the operation will each face a catalog of 408 felony counts ranging from money laundering and grand larceny to possession of forged devices and forgery instruments.
Meanwhile, the nine people who acted as money mules in the operation will each be hit with two felony counts of third-degree money laundering. ®