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Three New York men arrested, accused of pulling off $30 million international bank heist

Safe deposit boxes in Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and France were raided, federal authorities said.
The three co-conspirators used sophisticated camera equipment to photograph the insides of locks of safe deposit boxes belonging to other individuals.Roc Canals / Getty Images

Three Brooklyn men were arrested and accused of stealing more than $30 million in cash and other valuables from safe deposit boxes in banks across Europe, federal authorities said.

A grand jury indictment charged Val Cooper, 56, Alex Levin, 52, and Garri Smith, 49, with money laundering conspiracy and violations of the Travel Act after a string of alleged thefts between March 2015 and October 2019 at banks in Ukraine, Russia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Latvia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and France.

The men "targeted foreign banks that appeared to lack certain security features, including video surveillance cameras in certain areas," according to the indictment.

They opened accounts in those branches to get into safe deposit box rooms where they "used sophisticated camera equipment, including borescope, to photograph the insides of the locks of the other individuals' safe deposit boxes," the court document said.

That allowed Smith to enter the safe deposit box rooms, use "the duplicate keys to open" boxes and steal "their contents, including currency, gold bars, jewelry and other property," according to the indictment.

“The crimes we allege in this indictment read like something straight out of Hollywood fiction,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “The thieves used sophisticated tools to thwart security systems at foreign banks and tried to cover their tracks by laundering money through U.S. banks."

Cooper was arrested Tuesday and was set for a bail hearing on Friday, according to his attorney Tony Mirvis.

"There's more to this case than the government has presented," Mirvis told NBC News. "As the case proceeds, we expect his innocence to become clear."

Levin allegedly funded the operation and "purchased sophisticated camera equipment used in the thefts," according to the indictment.

Levin's attorneys conceded their client might have bought some of equipment, as alleged by the government, but said it doesn't make him a criminal. Levin was arrested Tuesday and released after posting $500,000 bond, his defense team said.

“Levin’s actions of obtaining the items, however, without the knowledge of what the items were going to be used for, is not a crime," according to a statement by the man's defense attorney, Nicholas Dayan.

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