| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 14 A seventh defendant pleaded not
guilty on Tuesday to charges he participated in a global ATM
heist that stole $45 million from two Middle East banks.
Elvis Rodriguez, 24, was accused of being a member of a
"casher" crew that withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in
New York as part of the heist.
Six other members of the New York crew pleaded not guilty
last week. An eighth person, Alberto Lajud-Pena, 23, described
by prosecutors as the leader of the crew, was murdered in the
Dominican Republic on April 27, police there said.
U.S. prosecutors, who announced the arrests last Thursday,
have not said where the global gang was based, citing an ongoing
No further details emerged at Tuesday's arraignment.
Rodriguez, in a tan jumpsuit, said "good afternoon" in Spanish.
His lawyer, Patrick Brackley, said "not guilty" when asked for a
According to prosecutors, the global gang used prepaid
MasterCard Inc debit cards issued by Bank Muscat
of Oman and by National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah PSC
(RAKBANK) of the United Arab Emirates.
Hackers broke into payment processing companies used by the
two banks and raised the balances and withdrawal limits on the
cards. Crews in 27 countries then withdrew $5 million between
Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 and $40 million between Feb. 19 and Feb. 20.
Rodriguez was an active member of the New York crew and was
caught on surveillance images making withdrawals on Dec. 22,
prosecutors said in a complaint against him released last week.
Rodriguez is also alleged to have been involved in
transferring money obtained during the heists. An email sent in
December to an address in Russia associated with a group that
specializes in laundering proceeds of criminal activity made a
reference to a wire transfer made by Rodriguez, according to
Another email obtained by investigators mentioned a trip
apparently made by Rodriguez and two other unidentified
individuals to Bucharest, Romania, in early January, where they
gave the organizers of the Dec. 21 operation $300,000 in cash.
Rodriguez was arrested March 27 while attempting to flee to
the Dominican Republic, prosecutors said.
Brackley said after the hearing that Rodriguez is fighting
the charges. A $250,000 bail application has been made but not
yet granted, he said.
Rodriguez was not arraigned with the other six because his
lawyer was unavailable, prosecutors said at the time.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the
heist shows how easily financial crimes can be coordinated and
committed in cyberspace. "It demonstrates the kind and scope of
financial crimes that are enabled in a network-connected world,"
she told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.
The only other country to have announced arrests in the case
is Germany, where police said two Dutch citizens were caught
withdrawing money at cash machines in Dusseldorf on Feb. 19.