Suspect in court for ATM theft

A Venezuelan national appeared in Summary Court on Friday charged with the theft of $2,500 from a specified bank account at Scotiabank on 6 July.

The defendant is Luis Eduardo Moreno Castillo, 31. Crown Counsel Kirsti-Ann Gunn indicated that investigations were ongoing and other charges were expected.

Through an interpreter, Castillo applied for bail, indicating he would help straighten things out if he were released from custody.

Mrs. Gunn objected to bail, submitting that Castillo and two accomplices had targeted the island, coming here with sophisticated equipment to commit the offences. She said estimates at that point indicated thefts totalling around CI$48,000, all from Scotiabank.

Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats denied bail. His decision was based on Castillo’s lack of local ties, the strength of the evidence and the nature and seriousness of the offence.

The defendant, who did not have an attorney present, was scheduled to be brought back to court on Monday, 24 July. He was also advised how to apply for legal aid.

Mr. Farried Sulliman, country head for Scotiabank, issued a statement on Thursday.

He said Scotiabank was cooperating with a police investigation related to several incidents of fraud involving the bank’s Automatic Banking Machines (ABMs).

‘The bank is contacting all affected customers and will address their needs and concerns on an individual basis,’ he said.

Mr. Sulliman acknowledged that the incidents were very unsettling news, but he assured the public that Scotiabank has taken steps to ensure that all customers’ accounts remain safe and secure.

‘It’s important our customers understand that if they are the victims of debit card fraud, they will get their money back,’ Mr. Sulliman emphasised.

In providing background to the charge against Castillo, Mrs. Gunn noted that he had arrived in Cayman via Cuba on 30 June. Two accomplices had arrived on 25 June. All came as visitors.

It is believed that what the men did was attach card readers to doors leading to automatic banking machines. When customers came to the door, they were told they had to swipe their card and they would be let in. The card reader picked up the information on the card’s magnetic strip.

The perpetrators also attached a small camera to the ATM or ABM itself, allowing them to pick up the personal identification number (PIN) each customer uses to start a transaction.

A complaint was subsequently received from a customer who said a large amount of cash had been removed from her account in four transactions which had taken place over four or five minutes.

Mrs. Gunn said the bank immediately checked into the matter and reviewed a video that gave an image of the defendant and his accomplices. These images were circulated and a security officer recognised Castillo.

After the defendant was arrested, police went to his hotel room, where they found electronic equipment that would allow the men effectively to copy information and make clones of cards.

The equipment is currently being examined by experts, Mrs. Gunn advised the court.

Castillo was scheduled to leave 9 July, but he was arrested on 8 July. It is understood that his accomplices left the island the day before his arrest.

Officers of the Financial Crimes Unit are handling the investigation.

Take precautions

Mr. Farried Sulliman, Scotiabank’s Cayman Islands country head, reminded consumers of five simple steps they can take to prevent debit card fraud from happening.

‘If you detect anything unusual about an ABM or POS (Point of Service) terminal, don’t use it. Report it to the police or your financial institution,’ he said.

‘Shield your personal identification number (PIN) when using your card.

‘Never lend your card or disclose your PIN.

‘Choose a PIN that cannot be easily identified if your card is lost or stolen.

‘Pay close attention to your monthly bank statements and report any discrepancies to your financial institution.’