FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – Three Bulgarian natives and current New York residents were sentenced today for a scheme to steal account information from bank customers by installing secret recording devices on ATMs in Nutley and Belleville, N.J., U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Lachezar Lazarov, 26, of Queens, N.Y., was sentenced to 65 months in prison; Georgi Nikiforov, 25, also of Queens, was sentenced to 57 months in prison; Viktor Kafalov, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
All three defendants previously pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz to separate Informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Judge Shwartz recommended to U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg that each of their guilty pleas be accepted and entered. Chief U.S. District Judge Garrett E. Brown Jr. imposed the sentences today in Newark federal court.
Kafalov was arrested on June 29, 2010, and Lazarov and Nikiforov were arrested on October 26, 2010. All three defendants have been held without bail since that time.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Kafalov, Lazarov and Nikiforov participated 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.
The defendants admitted that they 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 co-conspirators throughout the Tri-State area and other parts of the United States.
In all, the 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.
In addition to the prison terms, Judge Brown sentenced Lazarov to five years of supervised release and Nikiforov and Kafalov each to three years of supervised release. The defendants were also ordered to pay restitution in the total amount of $189,471.25.
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 sentences. He also thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, for their role.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine S. Gerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
Viktor Kafalov: Patrick Joyce Esq., West Orange, N.J.
Lachezar Lazrov: Christian P. Fleming Esq., East Brunswick, N.J.
Georgi Nikiforov: Paul Condon Esq., Jersey City, N.J.