Three Brooklyn men allegedly stole over $30 million in cash as well as other valuables as an aspect of an extensive money-laundering scam that utilized spy cameras to break into safe deposit boxes worldwide.
And the details of the heist are jaw-dropping.
On Tuesday, Alex Levin, Val Cooper, and Gari Smith were charged with conspiracy and money laundering alongside conspiracy to evade the Travel Act. They allegedly stole a huge sum of money from the bank safe deposits between March 2015 and October 2019.
Many of the banks were in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Russia, and North Macedonia, to name a few.
The trio allegedly targeted businesses that “appeared to lack security features, including video surveillance cameras in certain areas.”
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Feds also allege that Cooper was the ringleader while Levin used his American bank accounts to buy high-tech video equipment used in their money heists. But how were they able to pull off this Hollywood film-style robbery?
Here is how they were allegedly able to do it, according to court documents.
They pretended to be bank customers
The trio would allegedly look for banks with weak security systems by renting a safe deposit box to help them get into the room they would eventually steal from.
They used tiny medical cameras
According to prosecutors, once they were inside, they would use those small sophisticated cameras to “take photographs of the inside of safe deposit box locks.”
The photographs were used to create duplicate keys to victims’ safe boxes
A press release stated that a co-conspirator used the photographs to create duplicate keys, and then the other participants used those duplicated keys to open up victims’ safe boxes. They would steal “gold bars,” “jewelry,” and “currency,” to name a few. Once the mission was complete, they would leave the country.
Bribing local law enforcement personnel in other countries for information
Prosecutors state that Cooper and someone else would bribe the local law enforcement in the countries they robbed from for information so that they could avoid getting caught up with the law.
However, this caught up with them finally.
New York law enforcement found out what was happening, and agents conducted a search warrant at Cooper’s house. They found safe deposit box keys without any form of identification numbers, high-end bags, jewelry, and cash.
In Cooper’s Brooklyn storage unit, the investigators also found the small medical camera and safe deposit box lock.
Both Cooper and Levin are not newbies to being under the radar of authorities. Cooper was convicted of theft in the former Soviet Union in 1986 and was also mentioned in a criminal offense against the USSR in 2001. He didn’t face criminal charges before dodging prosecution.
Levin was convicted last April after pleading guilty to security fraud in a $100 million stock scheme operated by people within the La Cosa Nostra and a Russian organized crime group.
Hollywood, you may have yourself another crime story to reenact on the big screen.