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US bank hacker faces long jail term

Cash machines in New York Image copyright AP
Image caption The gang targeted cards issued by JP Morgan Chase that helped raise cash for disaster relief

A Turkish man alleged to have masterminded the theft of more than $55m (£39m) has pleaded guilty in a US court.

Ercan Findikoglu is believed to have co-ordinated the attacks, which used mules to withdraw money from cash machines around the world.

US prosecutors said hack attacks on three payment processing companies aided the widespread theft.

The charges he faces carry a potential jail term of more than 50 years.

Aid target

The gang won access to computer networks let them inflate balances and remove withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards.

Copied cards were then used to withdraw money via cash machines in a series of co-ordinated operations carried out between 2010 and 2013. In one attack in February 2013, the gang of mules working in New York withdrew more than $2.4m from 3,000 cash machines in an 11-hour period, said US prosecutors.

One operation by the gang went after cards issued by JP Morgan Chase that helped the American Red Cross raise money for disaster relief.

Findikoglu pleaded guilty to several different charges including "computer intrusion conspiracy" for leading the hacking spree.

"By hacking into the computer networks of global financial institutions, the defendant and his co-conspirators were able to wreak havoc with the worldwide financial system by simultaneously withdrawing tens of millions of dollars,'' said US attorney Robert Capers in a statement.

The charges faced by Findikoglu mean he could face a 50-year jail term. However, US prosecutors said a plea deal reached with him would mean he was incarcerated for between 11 and 15 years. He will be sentenced on 12 July.

Findikoglu was caught and arrested at Frankfurt airport in 2013, and fought extradition to the US for more than 18 months.

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