* “Mules” sent cash to Eastern Europe cyber thieves - U.S.
* International probe possibly related to Britain arrests (Adds quote from press conference, details on fraud, similar arrests in Britain)
NEW YORK, Sept 30 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors unveiled charges on Thursday against more than 60 defendants allegedly involved in a global cybercrime scheme that used the Zeus Trojan and other Internet viruses to steal over $ 3 million dollars from U.S. bank accounts.
The scheme was engineered by unnamed hackers based in Eastern Europe who hijacked bank accounts using malaware, a software code which can harm computers and steal user passwords, federal and city prosecutors said.
“The mouse and the keyboard can be far more effective than the gun and the mask,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.
Prosecutors described a complex “money mule” organization in which foreigners who entered the United States on student visas were recruited as “mules” to open bank accounts under fake names. The accounts were then used to receive and transfer the stolen funds, they said.
Federal prosecutors announced charges against 37 defendants, while Manhattan District Attorney prosecutors charged 36 people on top of 19 previously arrested. City and federal prosecutors said a number of those charged where not yet in custody.
London’s Metropolitan Police arrested 19 people on Tuesday in a possibly related case in which 6 million pounds were allegedly stolen from a number of unidentified major world banks. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Basil Katz; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Richard Chang)