ATM Crime Boss Sentenced

Bulgarian Crime Head Pleads Guilty to Skimming Scheme
ATM Crime Boss Sentenced
On Feb. 21, a federal judge sentenced Dimitar Dimitrov, an accused Bulgarian crime boss who pleaded guilty to overseeing several ATM skimming schemes in numerous U.S. cities, including Las Vegas.

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Dimitrov, who's been jailed since his arrest in May 2010, was handed a 41-month sentence by a Nevada U.S. District Court judge for the role he played in skimming crimes connected to two Bulgarian crime rings. The schemes netted more than $700,000 in fraud.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has tied Dimitrov's crime leadership to ATM skimming rings in Vegas, New York, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle, court records say.

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro ordered Dimitrov, now 59, to also serve three years of supervised release after he serves the remaining months of his sentence, with credit given for time already served. He also has been ordered to pay $96,461 in restitution.

Skimming Zones: More than Chance

The Dimitrov case is a prime example of how advanced skimming devices and the criminals behind the devices and the schemes have become. Dimitrov's ATM crimes, which go back to spring 2009, were elaborate and connected, investigators say.

To date, nine others, including four suspects still at large in Bulgaria, also have been charged for their involvement in the crimes.

Skimming crimes and rings stemming from Eastern Europe are growing concerns. According to new research from Ernst & Young, card skimming often traces back to crime rings in Russia and Eastern Europe.

But because fraud is often committed across numerous channels, from the ATM to the point of sale, U.S. banks and credit unions have an opportunity to use their knowledge to do more integration. Financial institutions need to connect fraud dots across banking touchpoints and networks, says David Nussenbaum, head of Ernst & Young's fraud control advisory and implementation practice.

"This is an opportunity for banks to think creatively," he says. "As we've been trying to say before, these people are not just laundering money; these people are committing fraud."

By reviewing suspicious transactions that raise flags, which could be on anti-money-laundering watch-lists or spreadsheets that reveal anomalous debit behavior, financial institutions can think more broadly about fraud detection and risk mitigation. [See 4 Crime Rings to Watch.]

Over the last three to five years, skimming attacks have dramatically increased in the United States, as well as in New Zealand and Australia. Part of the problem is outdated magnetic-stripe card technology, which is easy to copy and duplicate. The other part of the problem: the ease with which fraudsters can buy and sell skimming equipment over the Internet.

In Eastern Europe, the manufacture and sale of skimming devices is common. Also, it's not illegal in many Eastern Bloc countries to sell skimming devices; it's only illegal to use them. So that compounds the issue as well. [See ATM Fraud: Strategies to Beat the Skimming Scams].

Additionally, skimming equipment and the criminals who use it keep getting better.

Security blogger Brian Krebs wrote about one particular skimming device that shows remarkable evolution, and finding it online was easy. "This skimmer kit even includes an alarm feature so that if it is removed - either by the fraudster or a bank manager or passerby - the devices will immediately transmit any of their stored stolen data," he says.

About the Author

Tracy Kitten

Tracy Kitten

Director of Global Events Content and Executive Editor, BankInfoSecurity & CUInfoSecurity

Kitten was director of global events content and an executive editor at ISMG. A veteran journalist with more than 20 years' experience, she covered the financial sector for 10+ years. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2010, she covered the financial self-service industry as the senior editor of ATMmarketplace, part of Networld Media. Kitten has been a regular speaker at domestic and international conferences, and was the keynote at ATMIA's U.S. and Canadian conferences in 2009. She has been quoted by, ABC News, and MSN Money.

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