Conspirator in ATM Skimming Scheme Sentenced to 2.5+ Years in Prison

Conspirators Used Small Skimming Devices and Cameras to Obtain Account Information

BALTIMORE—U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Hristo Georgiev Kostov, age 29, a Bulgarian citizen residing in Howard County, Maryland, to 32 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft, in connection with a scheme to use small cameras and ATM skimming devices to obtain debit and credit card account numbers and personal identification numbers. Judge Blake also entered an order requiring Kostov to pay restitution of $47,495.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office.

According to Kostov’s plea agreement and other court documents, from at least September 2009 through February 2011, Kostov was part of a conspiracy that affixed small ATM skimmers imported from Bulgaria and miniature cameras to bank ATMs throughout Maryland to capture account information from each card inserted into the ATM machine and the PIN numbers as bank customers entered them. Once the ATM skimming device was removed from the ATM, it would be plugged into a computer and the captured information would be sent to additional co-conspirators in Bulgaria, through the use of constantly changing email addresses. The Bulgarian co-conspirators emailed the stolen account information back in a format in which Kostov and his co-conspirators could then encode the magnetic strips of plastic cards, such as gift cards, with the compromised account information, creating counterfeit debit and credit cards. The conspirators then used the counterfeit cards and the corresponding stolen PINs to make unauthorized withdrawals directly from the victims’ bank accounts.

For example, on September 7, 2009, one of the conspirators placed an ATM skimmer on an ATM in Lusby, Maryland. Kostov removed the skimmer a few hours later after it had captured the account information of victim customers. On September 15 - 17, 2009, co-conspirator Ivo Svetozarov Damyanov and others made fraudulent withdrawals totaling $17,351.

On January 8, 2011 and again on January 15, 2011, Damyanov placed an ATM skimmer on an ATM at a bank in Bel Air, Maryland. From January 25 - 26, 2011, Kostov and other conspirators withdrew a total of $13,160 from 19 victims’ accounts, using the account information captured during the January 8 and January 15 skims.

On March 16, 2012, co-defendant, Ivo Svetozarov Damyanov, age 32, also a Bulgarian citizen living in Howard County, Maryland, was sentenced to 75 months is prison and was ordered to pay restitution of $442,169.50. A third co-defendant, Hristo Dimitrov Kostov, is a fugitive.

In a related case, Stoycho Lazarov, another Bulgarian citizen, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft based on his role in the ATM skimming. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 10, 2012 at 9:15 a.m.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Tamera L. Fine, who prosecuted the case.

Source: Office of United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein

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