The U.S. Justice Department has unsealed charges against three North Koreans alleged to have been involved in the theft and extortion of more than $1 billion in money and cryptocurrency.

“A federal indictment unsealed today charges three North Korean computer programmers with participating in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to conduct a series of destructive cyberattacks, to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion of money and cryptocurrency from financial institutions and companies, to create and deploy multiple malicious cryptocurrency applications, and to develop and fraudulently market a blockchain platform,” according to a Justice Department press release.

The indictment claims that the three individuals belonged to units of North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB) that perpetrated illegal hacking. One of the three had been charged in a complaint unsealed several years ago in September 2018. 

The three “are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison,” according to the Justice Department.

“As laid out in today’s indictment, North Korea’s operatives, using keyboards rather than guns, stealing digital wallets of cryptocurrency instead of sacks of cash, are the world’s leading bank robbers,” Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers of the Justice Department’s National Security Division said in a statement.

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