Tiger gang busted in ATM heist plot
A band of men linked to Tiger terrorists - led by a Sri Lankan who
used a fake passport to get security clearance at Newark Airport - has
been busted in a massive plot to loot city ATMs.
Manhattan prosecutors told the New York Daily News the eight men had
ties to the terror group and were part of a scheme to use stolen credit
card numbers to steal $250,000 in New York - and tens of millions from
The six were nabbed in a raid at the Chelsea Inn, a reputed lair for
the Sri Lankan separatist group.
The other two, including alleged ringleader Sivapalasri
Velayuthampillai, 31, of Newark, were busted in July.
Until his arrest, Velayuthampillai worked three jobs at Newark
Airport as a security agent and baggage handler with complete security
Prosecutors said Velayuthampillai entered the U.S. with a fake
passport and dubious tale of persecution. He was given political asylum
in December 2001 under circumstances still under investigation by
District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.
“The defendant is part of a large, highly organized ring of
international criminals who steal account and PIN numbers ... and then
come to the United States to steal money from our financial
institutions,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Kim Han said in
The U.S. and other Western governments consider the Tigers a terror
organization. Velayuthampillai and the other alleged cell members came
from families who emigrated from Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Somalia.
Prosecutors contend the men became part of a massive global identity
theft scam last year when credit card numbers and PINs were stolen from
thousands of customers at 200 gas stations in the United Kingdom. Han
said Velayuthampillai had 30 forged cards on him when he was arrested in
midtown in July and more than 400 bogus cards in his rented car, all
bearing account numbers stolen from two U.K. gas stations.
British and Sri Lankan authorities say the proceeds from this kind of
international ATM fraud are routed back to the Tamil Tigers, Han wrote.
This summer, Jane’s Intelligence Review said the Tigers raise up to
$300 million a year through international credit card fraud, extortion
The Tigers are one of the world’s most ruthless and violent
nationalist organizations. Thirty-two countries, including the U.S.,
have branded the Tigers a terrorist group.
Their sources of worldwide funding, in addition to credit card fraud,
include sea piracy, human smuggling and drug trafficking, experts say.