A federal grand jury in Peoria, Ill., has returned a two-count indictment charging two Bulgarian men with attempting to use an electronic scanning device to illegally obtain account numbers and PIN data from an ATM machine.
Skimming financial account data and PINs is one of the fastest-growing scams in the United States. It often involves sliding a decoy card reader into and over the legitimate card reader so that it appears to be part of the ATM. When a customer slides his or her card into the decoy reader, it records the account number and any PIN or access code as it is being entered by the account holder.
Armed with that information, criminals are able to access and drain the account.
Similar scams have targeted credit-card and debit-card readers, including those used at gas pumps.
According to an affidavit filed in federal court, Messrs. Nachev and Petrovski had arrived in the US from Bulgaria two months earlier and had settled in the Chicago area. They told authorities that they traveled to Peoria to see the sights and shop at Wal-Mart because, they said, it is cheaper than shopping in Chicago.
The investigation began when an individual called police after noticing the illegal skimming device at the Commerce Bank ATM. As the responding officer approached the bank, he noticed two men sitting and eating sandwiches in a Toyota Corolla parked within sight of the ATM.
According to the affidavit, the officer asked the men if they had called the police.
Nachev, the driver, said they had not. He said they were just eating lunch. The police officer thought they seemed nervous, the affidavit says.
The officer went to the bank and met the individual who reported the illegal skimming device. As the device was being handed over to the police officer in the parking lot, the two men in the Toyota drove away at a high rate of speed, the affidavit says. The officer took chase and pulled the car over.
Both men were taken to the Peoria Police Department for questioning. In the meantime, a detective reviewed the security-camera video from the ATM and noticed a man resembling Nachev wearing latex gloves while placing a card-reading device on the ATM.
The two suspects did not say much at the police station, but at one point Nachev allegedly told police that “it was all a mistake.”
He allegedly said he was told he would be paid $5,000 to drive the car. He said he did not know who offered the money, just that he had to return the card-skimming device and laptop computer to receive his payment, the affidavit says.
Further investigation revealed that the two men were staying at a Motel 6 in East Peoria. Inside the room, police found three laptop computers, two cellphones, and latex gloves. Police also discovered that the Commerce Bank’s address had been entered into a portable GPS unit in the car.
The indictment, returned on Wednesday, charges the two men with one count of attempting to use an illegal skimming device to obtain financial information and one count of bank fraud.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.