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Suspect held for extradition hearing to U.S.

Daryl Slade, Calgary Herald

An Israeli national accused in a $1.8-million theft from a Calgary financial institution is now being fingered as the brains behind a multimillion-dollar worldwide computer hacking ring.
Ehud Tenenbaum, 29, arrested last week on a provisional warrant before he could post the required $30,000 bail, was refused release on Friday relating to even more serious allegations in the United States.
The allegations, heard before Court of Queen's Bench Justice Bryan Mahoney denied him bail on U.S. charges, involve potentially hundreds of financial institutions in Russia, Turkey, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany and other countries.
"Mr. Tenenbaum is alleged by the government of the U.S. to be one of the principal hackers, if not the mastermind, of their entire global operation," federal Crown prosecutor David Gates said.
"Mr. Tenenbaum and others did the actual hacking into financial institutions to obtain (debit and credit) card PIN numbers and then sold them to others in their operation."
Tenenbaum is renowned for his computer prowess and hacking abilities and was sentenced to 15 months in jail in Israel in 1998 for hacking into the Pentagon's computer system.
Gates could not say how much money has been stolen as a result of the alleged hacking by Tenenbaum over the past year, but said it is in the multiple millions and the investigation is ongoing.
Mahoney said the accused must be detained on the U.S. charges to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice.
Tenenbaum, who was arrested on Aug. 28 in Montreal and brought here to face charges related to thefts from Direct Cash Management Inc. in northeast Calgary, allegedly conducted his illicit activity with a computer at his Montreal apartment.
"As of this day, over 100 financial institutions worldwide have been identified as targets of various (Internet) chats involving Mr. Tenenbaum," Gates told Mahoney.
The U.S. government now has 60 days to submit an extradition order to have him face charges. Canada's justice minister then has 30 days to decide whether an extradition hearing can take place.
Defence lawyer John James said his client denies any illegal activity, maintaining any involvement was part of a computer security business in Montreal that was gathering information for security purposes.
He told the judge there were "holes in the Crown's case" and his client should be released on conditions.
James said Tenenbaum's fiance -- and co-accused Priscilla Mastrangelo -- would put up $100,000 in assets to support his release. He said his family in Israel could also put in $20,000.
Mastrangelo, 30, and Spyros Xenoulis, 33, listed as Tenenbaum's business partner, and Ralph Jean-Francis, 28, were previously released on bail and have returned to Montreal.
However, Gates told the judge Tenenbaum would not have been eligible to be admitted in Canada if authorities had known about his prior record and he has no current status, as his visitor's visa expired on Sept. 11.
The Crown alleges Tenenbaum used his computer skills to raise limits on Direct Cash-supplied debit cards. The co-accused made most of the withdrawals around the world, but primarily in Montreal.
A similar operation is alleged to have been used in the United States to hack into financial operations.
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