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Dozens charged in use of Zeus Trojan to steal $3 million

Defendants charged in Manhattan federal court include alleged managers of the operation as well as alleged money mules recruited to open bank accounts for laundering money.

Elinor Mills Former Staff Writer
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service and the Associated Press.
Elinor Mills
2 min read

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in southern New York announced charges today against 37 people accused of being part of an international crime ring that stole $3 million from bank accounts by infecting computers with the Zeus Trojan and other malware.

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Between federal and state charges, more than 60 people total are being charged in the operation, officials said.

Ten people were arrested today by federal and New York law enforcement officers and another 10 were previously arrested in the U.S. as part of a coordinated takedown, authorities said. Seventeen people are still being sought in the U.S. and abroad, officials said. The defendants named in the documents, unsealed by the court today, were all listed as being from Eastern Europe and face federal charges.

Separately, 10 people were charged earlier today in England for similar Zeus-related crimes.

The Zeus Trojan was identified earlier this year as a key factor in the construction of a botnet that infected tens of thousands of computers around the world.

The defendants charged in Manhattan federal court today include alleged managers of the operation as well as alleged money mules recruited to open bank accounts for laundering money and a person accused of obtaining false foreign passports for mules.

The group allegedly recruited mules by placing ads on Russian language Web sites seeking students with J-1 visas, who could open bank accounts in the U.S.

One of the purported victims was identified as a municipal entity in Massachusetts. Some of the alleged mules are accused of retrieving money from breached brokerage accounts at eTrade and TD Ameritrade. Other defendants allegedly received stolen money from wire transfers to bank accounts in Asia or by withdrawing money from ATMs in New York, the documents indicate.

The investigation appears to have been triggered when New York police detectives went to a Bronx bank in February to investigate a suspicious $44,000 withdrawal, according to a news release issued by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's office, the New York Police Department, and other agencies.

The charges range from bank fraud and false use of passport to money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Maximum prison sentences range from 10 years to 30 years and fines from $250,000 to $1 million per count.