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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Federal prosecutors in New Jersey have provided new details on how an international cybercrime ring broken up this week accessed some customer accounts at more than a dozen leading financial institutions and payroll services.
According to an amended complaint filed Thursday in Newark, the hackers used a number of unlawful means to obtain customer log-in information, such as usernames and passwords, to steal millions of dollars.
The government says no wider data breaches are alleged to have occurred.
Eight people are charged in the scheme.
Customer accounts were targeted at Aon Hewitt, Automated Data Processing Inc., Citibank, E-Trade, Electronic Payments Inc., Fundtech Holdings LLC, iPayment Inc., JPMorgan Chase Bank, Nordstrom Bank, PayPal, TD Ameritrade, TIAA-CREF, USAA, Veracity Payment Solutions Inc. and the payroll arm of the U.S. Department of Defense.
But those days of working for free could be numbered after a federal judge in New York ruled this week that Fox Searchlight Pictures violated minimum wage and overtime laws by not paying interns who worked on production of the 2010 movie "Black Swan."
The decision by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III may lead some companies to rethink whether it's worth the legal risk to hire interns to work without pay. For many young people struggling to find jobs in a tough economy, unpaid internships have become a rite of passage essential for padding resumes and gaining practical experience.
"I'm sure this is causing a lot of discussions to be held in human resource offices and internship programs across the country," said David Yamada, professor of law at Suffolk University in Boston.
There are up to 1 million unpaid internships offered in the United States every year, said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank. He said the number of internships has grown as the economy tumbled and he blamed them for exploiting young workers and driving down wages.
"The return on a college investment has fallen, students are facing higher and higher debt burdens, and the reaction of employers is to make matters worse for them by hiring more and more people without paying them," Eisenbrey said.
In the ruling, Pauley said Fox should have paid the two interns who filed the lawsuit because they did the same work as regular employees, provided value to the company and performed low-level tasks that didn't require any specialized training.
The interns, Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman, performed basic administrative work such as organizing filing cabinets, tracking purchase orders, making copies, drafting cover letters and running errands.
"Undoubtedly Mr. Glatt and Mr. Footman received some benefits from their internships, such as resume listings, job references and an understanding of how a production office works," Pauley wrote. "But those benefits were incidental to working in the office like any other employees and were not the result of internships intentionally structured to benefit them."
Chris Petrikin, a spokesman for 20th Century Fox, said the company believes the ruling was erroneous and plans to appeal. Fox had argued that the interns received a greater benefit than the company in the form of job references, resume listings and experience working at a production office.
Juno Turner, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said it was the first time a court had given employee status to young people doing the types of duties commonly associated with interns. The case is one of several that have been filed in recent years demanding that all interns deserve a salary.
"This is an incredibly important decision as far as establishing that interns have the same wage and hour rights as other employees," Turner said. "You can't just call something an internship and expect not to pay people when the interns are providing a direct benefit to the company."
In ruling for the interns, the judge followed a six-part test outlined by the Labor Department for determining whether an internship can be unpaid. Under the test, the internship must be similar to an educational environment, run primarily for the benefit of the intern as opposed to the employer, and the intern's work should not replace that of regular employees.
Glatt, the lead plaintiff, lamented the fact that unpaid internships have become so normal "people do it without blinking an eye."
"It's just become a form of institutionalized wage theft," he said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. Glatt has an MBA from Case Western Reserve University and said he is currently studying law at Georgetown University Law Center.
Another prominent lawsuit is challenging unpaid internships at Hearst Magazines. Last month, a federal judge in New York declined to let the interns pursue their case against Hearst as a class action.
Camille Olson, an attorney who represents employers in workplace litigation, said the Fox decision was just one judge's opinion that may be overturned on appeal. But she said many employers are now "taking a harder look at the issue."
"There's a lot more interest in making sure intern programs are structured correctly or, if an employer doesn't want to have any risk, then paying minimum wage," Olson said.
She said many employers believe they don't need to pay interns because they offer counseling and mentoring similar to what a teacher might offer in a vocational program.
"They view themselves as actually spending a lot of resources on these programs," Olson said.
But Yamada, the law professor, said the growth of unpaid internships unfairly leaves out students and graduates from lower economic levels who can't afford to work for free.
"If you're a college kid that has to make some money over the summer, maybe you go work for a food store instead of applying for that fancy internship in the entertainment or arts industry," he said. There's nothing wrong with a tryout program that lets them scout out the talent, but they should at least pay minimum wage."
The grim benchmark came as Assad's regime has scored a series of battlefield successes against the rebels seeking his ouster and international efforts to forge a round of peace talks have stalled. After regaining control of the strategic town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon, regime forces appear set on securing control of the central provinces of Homs and Hama, a linchpin area linking Damascus with regime strongholds on the Mediterranean coast, and Aleppo to the north.
In continued violence, a mortar round slammed into an area near the runway at the Damascus International Airport Thursday, briefly disrupting flights to and from the Syrian capital, officials said, a few weeks after the government announced it had secured the airport road that had been targeted by rebels in the past.
It was the first known attack to hit inside the airport, located south of the capital.
The country's transportation minister Mahmoud Ibrahim Said told Syrian TV that a mortar round fired by "terrorists" struck near a warehouse, breaking its windows and wounding a worker there.
He said the attack delayed the landing of two incoming flights, from Latakia and Kuwait, as well as the takeoff of a Syrian flight to Baghdad. No passengers were harmed and no planes were damaged, he said. The regime refers to rebels as "terrorists."
Tarek Wahibi, head of operations at the airport, said takeoff and landing then resumed normally.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebel fighters had targeted the airport with homemade rockets.
Rebels also battled regime forces for control of a key military base in the central Hama province after chasing soldiers out and setting fire to installations there, activists said.
Following dawn battles, rebels took control of the base on the northern edge of the town of Morek, which straddles the country's strategic north-south highway leading to Aleppo.
By midday, regime forces shelled the base and sent reinforcements in an apparent attempt to regain control of the area, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The Observatory, which has a vast network of Syrian activists on the ground, said the rebels killed six government fighters and seized ammunition and weapons. Two rebel fighters were killed.
An amateur video posted on Hama activists' Facebook page showed flames rising from the burning compound and the bodies of some of the killed fighters. In the video, fighters celebrated the capturing of the base, calling it one of the "most critical" regime outposts in the region.
State-run TV reported Thursday that troops have secured four towns in the central province of Hama after killing 60 members of al-Qaida-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra. It said the towns included Masaadah, Abu Hanaya and Abu Jbeilat.
Meanwhile in Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said it had documented 92,901 killings in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2013. But the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said it was impossible to provide an exact number, which could be far higher.
The figure was up from nearly 60,000 through the end of November, recorded in an analysis released in January. Since then, U.N. officials had estimated higher numbers, most recently 80,000. The latest report adds more confirmed killings to the previous time period and an additional 27,000 between December and April.
The conflict in Syria began in March 2011 as largely peaceful protests against Assad's autocratic regime. After a relentless government crackdown on the protests, many Syrians took up arms against the regime, and the uprising descended into civil war.
The figures trace the arc of violence, with the average monthly number of documented killings rising from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since last July. At its height from July to October 2012, the number of killings rose above 6,000 per month.
"The constant flow of killings continues at shockingly high levels," Pillay said. "This is most likely a minimum casualty figure. The true number of those killed is potentially much higher."
Among the victims were at least 6,561 children, including 1,729 children younger than 10.
"There are also well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families including babies being massacred — which, along with this devastatingly high death toll, is a terrible reminder of just how vicious this conflict has become," Pillay said.
Her office commissioned San Francisco-based nonprofit Human Rights Data Analysis Group to study eight data sets provided by various groups containing 263,000 reported killings. Those lacking a name, date and location of death were excluded, and some duplicates were found.
"Civilians are bearing the brunt of widespread, violent and often indiscriminate attacks which are devastating whole swaths of major towns and cities, as well as outlying villages," Pillay said.
"Government forces are shelling and launching aerial attacks on urban areas day in and day out," she said. "Opposition forces have also shelled residential areas, albeit using less firepower, and there have been multiple bombings resulting in casualties in the heart of cities, especially Damascus."
The vast majority of the victims are male. Three-quarters of the reported killings do not indicate the victim's age, and the analysis did not differentiate between fighters and noncombatants.
The most documented killings were in rural areas surrounding Damascus, with 17,800 people dead. Next was Homs, with 16,400; Aleppo, with 11,900; and Idlib, with 10,300.
___ Heilprin reported from Geneva. ___ Online: Full report: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/SY/HRDAG-Updated-SY-report.pdf