Bulgarian National and Florida Woman Plead Guilty to Multi-State Bank Fraud and Identity Theft
BIRMINGHAM – A Bulgarian man and a Florida woman pleaded guilty today in federal court to a multi-state operation in which they secretly skimmed bank customers’ identification at ATMs and used the stolen information to create hundreds of counterfeit debit cards, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and U.S. Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Roy Sexton.
ANTONIO VELIKOV, 41, and MARIANA BISEROVA PASHOVA, 35, entered guilty pleas before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn to charges of bank fraud, possession of more than 300 counterfeit credit or debit cards, and aggravated identity theft. Their fraud cost Bank of America at least $862,478. In separate plea agreements with the government, the duo agreed to pay that amount in restitution to Bank of America.
A federal grand jury indicted the pair in February. The court will schedule a sentencing date in about three months.
Hoover Police arrested Velikov and Pashova in May 2011 as the two were attempting to place a camouflaged skimmer on a Regions Bank ATM. A skimmer is a credit or debit card reader and information-storage device. The Hoover Police recovered the device and contacted the Secret Service.
“The investigation by Hoover Police and the Secret Service discovered this pair was involved in ATM skimming operations in at least 10 federal districts and six Southeastern states, including Alabama,” Vance said. “Heads-up law enforcement caught these defendants in the Northern District of Alabama before they could do any further harm, and put an end to their multi-state financial crime spree,” she said.
Even though the pair was caught attempting to install a skimmer at a Regions Bank branch in Hoover, apparently no money was stolen from Regions Bank.
According to the plea agreements, Velikov and Pashova were part of an organized group of individuals who traveled from state to state placing skimmers and cameras on ATM machines to harvest account information and Personal Identification Numbers from debit and credit cards. They then used that information to create counterfeit cards and steal money from the accounts associated with those cards.
More than $50,000 in bundled cash, a magnetic-stripe encoder that could write stolen card information onto counterfeit debit or credit cards, a camouflaged skimmer, laptop computers, computer accessories, and 340 counterfeit cards were recovered in a search of the Birmingham hotel room where Velikov and Pashova were staying on the day of their arrest.
The federal districts outside of Alabama where Velikov’s and Pashova’s group placed skimmers and PIN-recording devices on Bank of America ATMS included: the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of North Carolina; the Middle and Southern Districts of Florida; the Eastern District of Virginia; the Eastern and Middle Districts of Tennessee and the District of South Carolina. U.S. Attorney’s Offices, U.S. Secret Service Agents and Bank of America security personnel from these areas assisted in securing the 10-district plea agreements.
Hoover Police and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood.
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The Office of U.S. Attorney
Joyce White Vance
Natural Disaster Fraud Hotline
Members of the public can report fraud, waste, abuse or allegations of mismanagement involving disaster relief operations through the Hotline, toll free, at (866) 720-5721 or the Disaster Fraud e-mail at email@example.com. Please see the News Release Justice Department Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline