Brazilian National Sentenced for ATM Skimming
Defendant withdrew thousands from ATMs throughout Metro Boston
BOSTON – A Brazilian national was sentenced today in federal court in Boston in connection with ATM skimming in the Boston area and North Shore.
Helisson Benazi de Souza, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young to three years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $105,880 in restitution. Benazi de Souza will be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. In March 2018, Benazi de Souza pleaded guilty to one count of using counterfeit access devices (debit cards); one count of possessing 15 or more counterfeit access devices (debit cards); three counts of possessing device-making equipment (ATM skimming devices); one count of illegal transactions with an access device (other persons’ debit cards); and two counts of aggravated identity theft.
Benazi de Souza was part of an ATM skimming operation in which he stole the debit card information and personal identification numbers (PINs) of legitimate bank account holders when they used their debit cards at ATMs. Skimming devices made to look like legitimate card access slots were used to record the account information on the magnetic stripes of the debit cards, while secret pinhole cameras recorded the cardholders entering their PINs on the keypads. The stolen account information was then saved on blank plastic cards, including gift cards and hotel key cards, making “clones” of the legitimate debit cards. Benazi de Souza used such cloned cards, and the corresponding PINs, to withdraw thousands of dollars from ATMs in the Metro Boston area in May 2017.
Benazi de Souza was arrested in May 2017, after law enforcement was alerted by a bank’s fraud investigator. The investigator discovered that someone made a number of withdrawals that day at three ATMs in Lynn from bank accounts that the investigator knew had been compromised.
Surveillance video from banks in Malden and Saugus showed an unknown man installing and removing skimming devices and pinhole cameras at the banks’ ATMs. It was later determined that the man in the video was Benazi de Souza. When police searched Benazi de Souza’s car, they discovered thousands of dollars in cash, all in $20 bills. They also found over 200 gift cards and hotel key cards containing small stickers. Benazi de Souza admitted that the numbers written on the stickers were cardholders’ PINs.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Stephen A. Marks, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office; and Lynn Police Chief Michael A. Mageary made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Wichers of Lelling’s Major Crimes Unit prosecuted the case.