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8 Charged In $15 Million Attempted Cyberfraud Targeting U.S. Banking Customers

Hackers gained access to the computer networks of several financial institutions, including Citibank, E-Trade, and JP Morgan Chase Bank

Federal authorities in New Jersey charged eight people they say are part of an international cyberfraud operation that attempted to steal at least $15 million from U.S. banking customers.

The eight defendants are accused of taking part in a massive wire fraud, identity theft and money laundering conspiracy that used hacked information to access customer accounts at more than a dozen banks, brokerage firms, payroll processing companies, and government agencies. According to authorities, the "cash out" scheme was headed by Oleksiy Sharapka, 33, of Kiev, Ukraine, and operated from roughly March 2012 to June 2013.

In a complaint filed by the U.S. Secret Service, authorities say that hackers gained access to the computer networks of a host of financial institutions, including Citibank, E-Trade, and JP Morgan Chase Bank. Once inside the networks of the victimized companies, money was diverted from customers' accounts to prepaid debit cards controlled by the crew. They then used other individuals known as "cashers" to withdraw the stolen funds through a variety of means, including making ATM withdrawals and fraudulent purchases in New York, Illinois, Georgia, and elsewhere.

Among the crimes detailed in the complaint is an attempt to swipe millions from customers of Automated Data Processing (ADP). From about October 2011 through June 2013, hackers illegally accessed computer servers belonging to ADP in New Jersey, Georgia, and North Dakota. Afterward, hackers attempted to steal roughly $4 million from more than 130 ADP accounts by transferring money to accounts they controlled, including numerous transfers between March 2012 and April 2012 to prepaid debit cards held in the name of Sharapka.

Between approximately Nov. 23, 2012, and Dec. 12, 2012, hackers caused roughly $330,000 in unauthorized rebates to be issued through the Fundtech Modern Payments platform. Many of these unauthorized rebates were sent to banks accounts and prepaid debit cards controlled by the defendants, authorities allege.

"According to the complaint unsealed today, cybercriminals penetrated some of our most trusted financial institutions as part of a global scheme that stole money and identities from people in the United States," said U.S. Attorney Fishman, in a prepared statement. "Today’s charges and arrests take out key members of the organization, including leaders of crews in three states that used those stolen identities to 'cash out' hacked accounts in a series of internationally coordinated modern-day bank robberies." "We will continue to pursue our investigation into this scheme and our fight against the rising threat of criminals for whom computers are the weapon of choice," he added.

In addition to Sharapka, the following people were charged in the case: Leonid Yanovitsky, 38, also of Kiev, Ukraine; Oleg Pidtergerya, 49, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Robert Dubuc, 40, of Malden, Mass.; Andrey Yarmolitskiy, 41, of Atlanta; Richard Gunderson, 46, of Brooklyn; Lamar Taylor, 37, of Salem, Mass; and Ilya Ostapyuk, 31, of Brooklyn.

Pidtergerya, Ostapyuk, and Dubuc were arrested this morning at their homes by federal agents, while Yarmolitskiy was arrested June 11 as he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on an overseas flight. Sharapka and Yanovitsky, Ukrainian nationals, remained at large as of this morning.

If convicted, each of the defendants face a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit wire fraud count, 20 years for conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 15 years in prison for conspiracy to commit identity theft.

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Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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