Val Cooper, Alex Levin Garri Smith, 49, are accused of stealing over $30 million from more than two dozen European banks, between 2015 and 2019
Cooper, 56, Levin, 52, and Smith, 49, allegedly targeted more than two dozen banks in seven countries over the course of four years, and then sent the profits back to the US, according to Tuesday’s indictment
They used high tech camera equipment and sophisticated tools on specially targeted banks with poor security systems, federal prosecutors say
‘The crimes we allege in this indictment read like something straight out of Hollywood fiction,’ Feds said
They executed their scheme in the Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, according to prosecutors
They trio only face money laundering charges, rather than theft, because alleged heists happened outside the US
They face up to 20 years in imprisonment, if convicted on money laundering conspiracy
They’re also charged with violating the Travel Act, which prohibits international and interstate travel with the intent to commit crimes
Indictment also lists unnamed co-conspirator
Three middleaged men from Brooklyn, New York have been arrested on money laundering charges for an alleged heist reminiscent of the hollywood movie ‘Oceanss 13’, where they used high-tech equipment to steal $30million in valuables from bank vaults across Europe.
In a plot prosecutors described as ‘Hollywood-style’, Val Cooper, 56, Alex Levin, 52, and Garri Smith, 49, allegedly targeted more than two dozen banks in seven countries over the course of four years, and then shipped the proceeds back to the US, prosecutors say.
Posing as genuine customers, the trio would rent their own safety deposit boxes in ‘foreign banks that appeared to lack certain security features, including video surveillance cameras in certain areas’, according to the federal indictment.
Once inside the vault, they used high tech camera equipment like a borescope, which is typically used in medical procedures, to photograph the inside lock mechanisms of other people’s boxes, prosecutors said.
Those photos were allegedly used to make duplicate keys, allowing them to return to the vault and simply open other people’s boxes to steal the items inside.
“The defendants and their co-conspirators were allegedly part of a sophisticated network of criminals that used high-tech camera equipment to steal millions in cash and other valuables from victims who had tried to protect their property by using safe deposit boxes in foreign countries, and they then laundered the proceeds of their scheme through the United States financial system,” said Acting United States Attorney Mark J. Lesko in a statement.
‘The crimes we allege in this indictment read like something straight out of Hollywood fiction,’ FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney said in a statement.
‘The thieves used sophisticated tools to thwart security systems at foreign banks, mostly in Eastern European countries, and tried to cover their tracks by laundering money through U.S. banks.’
The three men executed the same scheme in more than two dozen banks in the Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan between March 2015 to October 2019, prosecutors sad.
When asked, federal prosecutors said they couldn’t comment on the exact number of banks they hit, their exact locations, or how they were ultimately caught.
But prosecutors laid out a timeline of one of the alleged robberies in the federal indictment as an example of how the scheme works.
The target was a bank in Riga, Latvia. Cooper allegedly emailed a video of a safety deposit box for sale to Levin on July 11, 2017. Smith would return to the Latvia bank on Jan. 15, 2018 and emptied multiple boxes into his bags, according to federal prosecutors.
The group made off with currency, gold bars, jewelry and other valuables, and sent the proceeds to bank accounts in the United States, according to court documents.
An unnamed co-conspirator bought Smith a plane ticket and hotel room in Riga on Dec. 31, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018, respectively, according to the indictment.
Smith allegedly went into the Riga bank with duplicate keys and inspected all the safety deposit boxes on Jan. 4, 2018.
Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 15, 2018, a plane ticket and hotel room were bought for Cooper, according to the indictment.
On Jan. 15, 2018, Smith, ‘together with others’ allegedly stole property in the safety deposit boxes and left.
They later met with Cooper at the Riga hotel, where they split the proceeds before flying back to the US, according to the indictment.
They traveled around the world committing modern day bank heists using fake passports, according to court documents.
Agents raided Cooper’s home on Tuesday and discovered safe deposit box keys with no numbering on them, cash, jewelry and high-end handbags. They also executed a search warrant against a storage unit allegedly belonging to Cooper in Brooklyn and found a borescope and a safe deposit box lock.
Prosecutors named Cooper as the group’s ringleader. But, his attorny Tony Mirvis said , ‘Mr. Cooper is innocent until proven guilty’.
‘There is a lot more to this case than the government has presented in its press release and as the case progresses, I anticipate his innocence will become clear.’
Levin was allegedly the moneyman behind the scheme, and purchased the high-tech camera equipment, according to court documents.
Levin’s attorneys also maintain that their client might have bought some of equipment but said it doesn’t make him a criminal.
‘Levin’s actions of obtaining the items, however, without the knowledge of what the items were going to be used for, is not a crime,’ his lawyer, Nicholas Dayan, told NBC.com.
Levin was arrested Tuesday and released after posting $500,000 bond.
Smith was ordered held without bail following his arrest Tuesday.
There were also unnamed co-conspirators listed in the indictment.
They men only face money laundering charges in the US, rather than theft, because the alleged heists were carried out in other countries. If convicted of money laundering conspiracy, the defendants face up to 20 years in imprisonment.
The defendants are also charged with violating the Travel Act, which prohibits international and interstate travel with the intent to commit crimes, the indictment states.