Christian Eduardo Zerpa-Ruiz, 32, and Ragde Hussein Pinto-Coronado, 24, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit bank larceny. Zerpa-Ruiz was sentenced to 51 months in prison and Pinto-Coronado was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado are members of a “Venezuelan crime syndicate” that used sophisticated hacking malware to rob banks and credit unions.
Throughout Indiana, Kentucky, Wisconsin and Michigan, Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado would rob banks by infecting ATM hard drives with malware that would force the machine to dispense all of its cash. The scheme is called “jackpotting,” because the ATMs dispense the cash quickly like when someone hits a jackpot on a casino slot machine.
According to court documents, in at least one of the previous successful ATM robberies, Pinto-Coronado would remove the machine’s hard drive while Zerpa-Ruiz drove the car and acted as the lookout.
Jackpotting is fairly new to the U.S., only taking place in the past year. From February to their arrest March 15, Zerpa-Ruiz and Pinto-Coronado stole $125,000 from four ATMs. They were arrested while trying to rob their fifth ATM in St. Joseph.
Pinto-Coronado is in the U.S. illegally, while Zerpa-Ruiz is in the country on a tourist visa.
When sentencing the pair in federal court in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Judge Janet Neff called the crime “chillingly sophisticated” and a use of technology that “strikes at the integrity of the financial system of the entire country.”
The case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and the St. Joseph Township Police Department.