Conspirator in ATM Skimming Scheme Sentenced to over 6 Years in Prison

Over 526 Victims in the Scheme with Losses Totaling Over $400,000

March 16, 2012

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Ivo Svetozarov Damyanov, age 32, a Bulgarian citizen residing in Howard County, Maryland, to 75 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release in connection with a conspiracy to obtain debit and credit card account numbers and personal identification numbers using small cameras and ATM skimming devices. Judge Blake also entered an order requiring Damyanov to pay restitution of $442,169.50.

On September 19, 2011, the first day of his trial, Damyanov pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

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 court documents and statements at today’s sentencing hearing, from at least September 2009 through February 2011, Damyanov 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 Damyanov 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 October 9, 2010, Damyanov placed an ATM skimmer on an ATM in Owings Mills, Maryland, removing the skimmer a few hours later. On October 20 and 21, 2010, Damyanov and others made fraudulent withdrawals from the accounts of more than 40 victims using the skimmed account information. In addition, some of the gift cards encoded with account information skimmed on January 22, 2011, were found in a garage shared by Damyanov and co-defendant Hristo Georgiev Kostov, along with tools and double-sided tape used to attach the skimming devices. “Cheat sheets” were also found, which listed the last few digits of the gift card the conspirators were using and the corresponding stolen PIN numbers of the compromised accounts. A similar cheat sheet was found in Damyanov’s car. Damyanov and his co-conspirators used the cheat sheets along with the altered gift cards to make withdrawals from the victims’ accounts.

There were at least 526 victims in this case, with a total loss of more than $400,000.

Co-defendant Hristo Georgiev Kostov, age 29, also a Bulgarian citizen living in Howard County, Maryland, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23, 2012, at 10:00 a.m. 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 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 Fine, who prosecuted the case.

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