A US judge will be sentencing 34-year-old Turkish hacker, Ercan Findikoglu, for netting an estimated $55 million from masterminding three complex financial crimes that spanned over 20 countries.
Although Findikoglu has eluded authorities for years, by hiding his online fingerprint and avoiding countries that could extradite him, in December 2013 he was arrested in Germany while he was taking a trip there. US authorities requested that he should be extradited to the US so that he can face charges in court.
“They know their safe havens and some are more challenging to get to,” said Robert Sica, said retired special agent in charge of the Secret Service’s New York field office. “Inevitably they make a mistake.”
Findikoglu’s lawyer describes his defendant’s actions as triggered by a troubled childhood, with an abusive father and a sickly mother, which pushed him towards seeking refuge in cyber cafes and then using his skills for the Turkish military before engaging in illegal activities.
By hacking into multiple card processors, Findikoglu was able to remove the prepaid card limits and broadcast PIN numbers and access codes to “cashers.” In a highly coordinated attack, 5,000 cashers in 20 countries withdrew an estimated $5 million in two-and-a-half hours. The money was then distributed amongst his co-conspirators from Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine, with a percentage reaching Findikoglu.
“You work with other partner countries in the European Union so that should they travel there are arrest notices,” said Sica. “We have a footprint around the world.”
Although other notorious hackers are currently on the FBI’s most wanted list, including Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev with a $3 million bounty on his head, Findikoglu is among the few who have actually been extradited to the US to face sentencing.