United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
Seattle Man Who Engaged In ‘Skimming’ Spree Across West Sentenced To Prison
Defendant Connected to more than $400,000 in Bank Fraud from ATM Skimming in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada
A Seattle man who was arrested following a year-long skimming spree across four western states, was sentenced to 5 years in prison, 5 years of supervised release and more than $400,000 in restitution for conspiracy to commit access device fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. BENEYAM ASRAT G-SELLASSIE, 23, of Seattle, Washington, was arrested in June 2011 and was ultimately connected to more than 30 ATM skimming incidents in Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. At the time of his arrest in Seattle, G-SELLASSIE had in his possession 22 gift cards that had been converted to counterfeit ATM debit cards. In all 639 victims had their bank accounts raided of $435,489. At sentencing Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha J. Pechman ordered the one-time UW student to have mental health counseling during supervised release saying “something caused you to lose your moral compass.”
According to records in the case, G-SELLASSIE targeted Chase Bank branches by installing equipment that would capture ATM card numbers and customers’ Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). G-SELLASSIE is alleged to have been involved in compromising more than 2,000 accounts. In exhibits filed with the court, G-SELLASSIE is pictured on an ATM camera installing the skimming device. Investigators also recovered signs posted on various ATM machines that were used to direct customers to the ATM that had skimming equipment installed. G-SELLASSIE was ultimately arrested at a Chase Bank branch in South Seattle when Chase security personnel alerted Seattle Police that he was attempting withdrawals from an ATM using compromised information from Las Vegas customers.
G-SELLASSIE pleaded guilty in March 2012.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors quoted from many of the victim statements – describing how people were left without money to buy food or pay rent when their accounts were drained, how they were hit with fees when their checks bounced through no fault of their own, and how they lost their trust in others. Prosecutors noted that G-SELLASSIE continued his skimming even after run ins with law enforcement. “G-Sellassie continued to relentlessly pillage the savings of honest Americans throughout the Western States. Simply put, G-Sellassie, despite repeated opportunities to reassess his criminal actions, remorselessly pursued greed, leaving behind a wake of emptied bank accounts and confused and frustrated victims. He stole what belonged to others in utter disregard to the potential dire consequences to hundreds of innocent victims, many of whom may live paycheck-to-paycheck. He was not merely a minor or reluctant participant, but rather a key player who staunchly pressed the criminal enterprise and, by early 2011, it appears, was running his own crew of ATM skimmers,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo.The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven Masada.