The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a Chicago woman was sentenced on Tuesday to two years and six months in federal prison for helping steal more than $9 million USD back in 2008. She was also ordered to spend five years on supervised release following prison, and pay $89,120.25 in restitution
According to federal prosecutors, 45-year-old Sonya Martin was the member of a cell in what they claim was "one of the most sophisticated and organized computer hacking and ATM cashout schemes ever." Her Chicago cell was one of many "cashing crews" that drained millions of dollars from roughly 2,100 ATMs in 280 cities across the globe.
U.S. District Court officials claim that a group of hackers obtained unauthorized access to Atlanta-based payment processing company WorldPay U.S. Inc. back in November 2008. WorldPay handles companies who use payroll debit cards to pay their employees that in turn use these cards to make purchases or withdraw their salaries from an ATM. The hackers allegedly used "sophisticated techniques" to compromise the data encryption used to protect customer data on these cards.
Once they gained access to these accounts, the hackers fraudulently raised the balances and ATM withdrawal limits. They then handed over 44 debit card account numbers and their associated PIN numbers to the cashing crew cells to cash out the accounts. Martin's cell and others located around the world -- including United States, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan, and Canada -- drained those accounts in less than 12 hours on November 8, 2008.
Officials said Sonya Martin worked with one of the lead cashers and supervised a cashing crew in Chicago. This cell withdrew approximately $80.000 from various Chicago area ATMs using counterfeit debits cards she manufactured using a payroll card number and PIN code.
"While this was a complex, internationally coordinated crime with many different players and components, it would not have gotten very far without the cashing crews [like the one Martin worked with]," said Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office.
Martin, who primarily lives in Nigeria, was caught in March 2011 trying to catch a flight to London at the Kennedy International Airport in New York. U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones sentenced Sonya Martin for conspiracy to commit wire fraud on August 21.
"This case demonstrates the growing expertise and reach of law enforcement in combating international cyber criminals," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners throughout the world to investigate and prosecute those who defraud victims in the United States, wherever the perpetrators may be."