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Christian Zerpa-Ruiz and Ragde Pinto-Coronado Stole From Bank and Credit Union ATMs By Infecting Them With Malicious Software That Forced the ATMs to Dispense Cash
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN — U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge announced today that Christian Eduardo Zerpa-Ruiz, 32, and Ragde Hussein Pinto-Coronado, 24, both of Venezuela, were sentenced to federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank larceny. Zerpa-Ruiz was sentenced to 51 months in prison, Pinto-Coronado was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and both were ordered to pay restitution. U.S District Judge Janet T. Neff imposed the sentences.
Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado are members of a Venezuelan crime syndicate who, in a sophisticated hacking scheme known as "jackpotting," robbed bank and credit union automated teller machines by infecting their hard drives with malware that allowed them to take command of the machines and force them to dispense all the cash they contained in a relatively short period of time – somewhat like hitting a jackpot on a casino slot machine. This type of crime was first reported in the United States in January 2018.
Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado successfully jackpotted four ATMs in Indiana, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, and stole approximately $125,000 in cash. They were arrested on March 15, 2018, while attempting to jackpot an ATM in St. Joseph, Michigan containing more than $43,000. Pinto- Coronado is in the United States illegally. Zerpa-Ruiz came to the United States on a tourist visa in late January 2018, and began jackpotting in February 2018.
In imposing the sentences, Judge Neff characterized the crime as a "chillingly sophisticated" use of technology that "strikes at the integrity of the financial system of the entire country." She said she was "astounded" and "troubled" that Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado were able to "come into the country and attack the financial system in this way."
"Criminals continue to exploit new types of technology to attack our nation’s financial institutions," Birge said. "But one thing remains the same: they will be caught, and they will go to prison. We will vigorously prosecute these cases, and continue to work with law enforcement to develop countermeasures to prevent these types of crimes in the future."
"Today’s sentencings demonstrate that attempts to attack our nation’s financial systems through technological exploitation will be met by the full force of federal law enforcement," said Timothy R. Slater, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. "The FBI and our law enforcement partners will continue to protect the integrity of our banking institutions against schemes to compromise it, and bring to justice those who perpetrate these crimes."
"This case demonstrates the Secret Service’s commitment to ensure the integrity of our nation’s financial infrastructure by collaborating with our local and federal partners to aggressively pursue those who commit these types of crimes," said Steve McMahon, the Resident Agent in Charge of the Secret Service’s Grand Rapids field office.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Secret Service, and the St. Joseph Township Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Stiffler handled the prosecution.