Bulgarian Citizen Sentenced To Over 3 Years In Prison For Using ATM Skimmers To Obtain Over $54,000 From Victims’ Accounts
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Bozhidar Lazarov, age 40, a Bulgarian national residing in Chicago, Illinois, today to 39 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with an ATM skimming scheme. Judge Blake also ordered Lazarov to pay restitution of $54,883.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office.
According to his guilty plea, from at least May through November 2010, Lazarov and others illegally obtained debit and credit card account numbers by placing ATM skimmers over the slot where customers inserted their debit or credit cards, thereby capturing the account information as the card passed through the skimmer. The conspirators used a miniature camera to capture personal identification numbers (PINs) as the customers entered them on the keypad. Lazarov and others then encoded the magnetic strips of plastic cards, such as gift cards, with the compromised account numbers and information which they used, along with the corresponding PIN numbers, to make unauthorized cash withdrawals directly from the victims’ bank accounts.
For example, on May 29 and 30, 2010, co-conspirator Stoycho Lazarov, who is Bozhidar’s brother, installed an ATM skimmer on bank ATMs in Westminster and Finksburg, Maryland, which Bozhidar Lazarov removed a few hours later. Bozhidar Lazarov and others used the stolen debit card numbers and PINs to withdraw at least $30,536 from 20 victims’ accounts. On October 17, 2010, Bozhidar Lazarov and others used a skimming device at a bank ATM in Ellicott City, Maryland, subsequently using the stolen account information and PINs to illegally withdraw at least $24,347 from at least 19 victims’ accounts.
Bozhidar Lazarov obtained at least $54,883 from 39 individual bank customers and two banks during his participation in the scheme.
Stoycho Ivanov Lazarov, age 41, a Bulgarian citizen residing in Millersville, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to the same charges, and was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $185,512.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation and praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kristi N. O’Malley and Tamera Fine, who prosecuted the case.