FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – A Bulgarian native and Queens, N.Y., resident today admitted to a scheme to steal account information from bank customers by installing secret recording devices on ATMs in Nutley and Belleville, N.J.
Lachezar Lazarov, 26, pleaded guilty in Newark federal court to an Information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Lazarov entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz, who recommended to U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg that his plea of guilty be accepted and entered. The defendant has been held without bail since his arrest on October 26, 2010.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The charges stem from Lazarov’s participation in a “skimming” scheme to obtain account and identity information from ATMs at Valley National Bank branches in Nutley and Belleville. In skimming, identity and account information contained in the magnetic strip of an ATM card is read and recorded by an electronic device, or skimmer, that is secretly inserted into the ATM – along with a pinhole camera that records the bank customers’ keystrokes when they enter their personal identification number (“PIN”).
Lazarov admitted that he installed skimmers and cameras on the Valley National Bank ATMs in September 2008, and that after account and identification information was obtained, it was transferred and loaded onto blank ATM cards. The newly created cards were then used to make unauthorized withdrawals from the skimmed accounts by coconspirators throughout the Tri-State area and other parts of the United States.
In all, Lazarov and his co-conspirators stole information pertaining to approximately 348 accounts, and defrauded Valley National Bank of approximately $278,144 by making numerous unauthorized withdrawals with counterfeit ATM cards in October 2008. The bank absorbed the loss when it repaid the defrauded customers.
The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory, consecutive penalty of two years in prison, and a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for September 13, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the United States Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jacob Christine, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine S. Gerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Christian P. Fleming Esq., East Brunswick, N.J.