Safe deposit boxes in Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and France were raided, federal authorities said

By David K. Li

Three Brooklyn men have been arrested on money laundering charges for an alleged ‘Hollywood-style’ heist where they used high-tech equipment to steal $30million in valuables from bank vaults across Europe.

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 sent the profits back to the US, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors say the defendants would make duplicate keys so that they could open safe-deposit boxes and steal what was inside.
US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York

The trio posed as legitimate customers and rented 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.

This screenshot from a detention letter shows how hidden cameras in a bank in Latvia captured a heist in progress in January 2018. (Image via Courthouse News)

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 suspects allegedly used high tech camera equipment, such as a borescope (left), to photograph the inside lock mechanisms of victims’ safety deposit boxes and then made duplicate keys to get inside. 

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. 

Smith return to the Latvia bank on Jan. 15, 2018 and emptied multiple boxes into his bags, according to federal prosecutors. 

Smith and a co-conspirator were allegedly caught on security cameras in a bank vault during a heist in Riga, Latvia.

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. 

An unnamed co-conspirator (whose face was redacted) and Val Cooper (right), who prosecutors named as the head of the four-year scheme, met in a Latvia hotel to split the proceeds, which were then sent to United States bank accounts. 

Smith was ordered held without bail following his arrest Tuesday, according to defense attorney Jeremy M. Landolo, who declined comment. 

There were also unnamed co-conspirators listed in the indictment. 

If convicted of money laundering conspiracy, the defendants face up to 20 years in imprisonment.

They only face money laundering charges in the US, rather than theft, because the alleged heists were carried out in other countries. 




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