Venezuelan sentenced in $250,000-monthly ATM skimming scheme

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A Venezuelan man who pleaded guilty to stealing debit and credit card information from ATMs has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Ricardo Abdel and his conspirators installed pinhole cameras at ATM machines in Georgia, Florida and California to record card and pin numbers, and then used them to create counterfeit cards to withdraw about $250,000 a month from ATMs, Attorney Robert Higdon Jr. said in a news release on Wednesday.

Abdel was finally caught in March 2018 in Wilmington, North Carolina, where a credit union alerted police and the U.S. Secret Service that three people were trying to illegally withdraw money from an ATM, the Justice Department said.

Officers stopped a car in which Abdel and two other persons were riding, and a search turned up approximately $9,319 in cash, numerous debit/credit cards, computers, digital storage media, and two debit/credit card readers/encoders.

A forensic search of the seized laptop computers and cell phones then revealed 566 individual card numbers issued by 71 different financial institutions, including seven card numbers which were issued by financial institution in Mexico and one from India, prosecutors said.

Investigators also determined that Abdel had spent four or five days in the Wilmington area placing pin-hole camera skimming devices on ATMs and collecting account numbers. Those numbers were then encoded onto magnetic stripe cards and used to fraudulently withdraw funds from ATMs.

Higdon said Abdel, a permanent resident of the U.S. who lived in Doral, Florida, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay almost $20,000 in restitution. Abdel pleaded guilty last March to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Wilmington Police were alerted by investigators with the State Employees’ Credit Union of ongoing fraudulent debit and credit card withdrawals being made from member accounts at various local ATMs.

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