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Florida man accused of ‘ATM jackpotting’ at credit unions and banks

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A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a Florida man to remain in custody on suspicion of involvement in an alleged “ATM jackpotting” scheme that stole more than $2.6 million from credit unions and banks in several states.

Carlos Luis Vera La Cruz, 44, of Miami, was arrested on charges of conspiracy, bank theft, accessing a protected computer in furtherance of a fraud and attempted accessing a protected computer in furtherance of a fraud, said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert in Sacramento, Calif. A second person, whose name remains withheld, is charged with the same charges.

According to court documents, Vera La Cruz and others were involved in an “ATM jackpotting” conspiracy that involved stealing millions of dollars from ATMs of select credit unions and banks across the country. They allegedly did this by infecting the ATMs with malware that forced the ATMs to dispense money without a valid transaction.

The indictment did not name the credit unions and banks that were the target of this plot.

California federal prosecutors allege that Vera La Cruz targeted a bank's seven ATMs in Redding, Anderson, Cottonwood and Chico on June 10 and 11, 2023, and stole more than $291,000.

For example, Vera La Cruz and others are said to have used a third-party device to inject malware into an ATM on East Cyprus Road in Redding. They then activated the malware and caused the ATM to pay out $80,800 in $800 increments, the indictment states. The alleged fraudsters then took possession of the third-party device.

Vera La Cruz pleaded not guilty after being arraigned on the charges in U.S. District Court in Sacramento on Tuesday.

According to court documents, Judge Deborah Barnes ordered Vera La Cruz held without bail based on clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions of release can reasonably ensure the safety of other persons and the community.

Vera La Cruz’s next court date is scheduled for July.

Although jackpot ATM attacks have long threatened European and Asian banks, the US Secret Service has been warning financial institutions about attacks on ATMs in the US since 2018. The malware can cause an ATM to dispense 40 bills within 23 seconds.

Anna Harden

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