WASHINGTON (5/13/10)--The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is planning a major effort to break up and prosecute “money mule” operations that cyber criminals use to turn funds stolen online into cash. Several credit unions have encountered “money mules”--people who receive transfers of stolen funds in their bank accounts--hired by cyber rings. The FBI is targeting the mule operation--the end of the criminal supply chain--to heighten public awareness and discourage people from becoming mules, said Patrick Carney, acting chief of the FBI’s Cyber Criminal Section (The Wall Street Journal May 11). “We want to start to get some attention on this issue,” Carney said at a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. forum on banking and cyber crime in Arlington, Va. “We think a good way to drive that home would be to prosecute them.” Mule operations are a key component of cyber crimes, the Journal said. When cyber thieves loot a credit union or bank account, they transfer the stolen money to a mule’s account to make the transaction seem legitimate. The mule then withdraws the funds and sends them to criminal associates--mostly overseas in countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, the Journal added. Earlier this year, five credit unions in Florida were targeted by one fraud and identity theft ring involving 42 people who stole more than $200,000 over three years (News Now March 26). Vanessa Rideau, 41, allegedly recruited people--money mules--to open accounts at a local credit union. When the recruits received their ATM cards, they would sell the cards and personal identification numbers to her for a fee. Then Rideau would deposit a fraudulent check or empty envelope into the account via an ATM--and immediately withdraw cash. Later, the check didn’t clear and the credit union would contact the account holder, who would say the card had been stolen. The frauds occurred from 2005 to 2008 and targeted: Insight CU, Martin FCU, Central Florida Educators FCU, McCoy FCU and Fairwinds FCU.