FBI catches 'gone in 60 seconds' bank fraudsters

A group of 14 fraudsters have been charged after clocking up over US$1 million in coordinated bank heists at nearly a dozen US casinos.

A group of 14 fraudsters has been charged in the US following an FBI investigation into a million-dollar bank theft scheme that saw the criminals conduct coordinated attacks at nearly a dozen California- and Nevada-based casinos.

The accused ringleader Ara Keshishyan recruited others to pull off the heist with him, which revolved around exploiting a security gap in how Citibank prevents checking accounts from being overdrawn. Keshishyan and his partners in crime would open multiple accounts, depositing a small amount into each. By using cash-advance kiosks at several casinos in California and Nevada, they would then make several withdrawals on the accounts, all within a 60-second period, to overdraw the account before bank's lock-out procedures executed.

The criminals kept all transactions under US$10,000 to avoid federal transaction-reporting requirements, and once Keshishyan gave recruits their cut of the money, he laundered the funds through the casinos they were at. According to the FBI, the casinos even provided the criminals with free rooms in recognition of their status as frequent, large gamblers.

FBI special agent in charge Daphne Hearn said that the heist highlighted how the use of technology has amplified the effects of even tiny loopholes. However, unlike the FBI's Australian counterparts, who have said that they are ill equipped to keep up without tools such as data-retention laws, he remarked that the FBI has had no issues in doing so.

"For over 100 years, the FBI has kept pace with technological and communication changes in the business world where these types of electronic transactions are the standard, and we will continue to do so in order to help protect commercial enterprise and our nation's economy."

Each of the criminals face up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 fine. Keshishyan himself is facing up to 30 years of imprisonment and a US$1 million fine.