ATM fraudster gets 5 years

A crime involving cloned bank cards, more than $60,000 in cash, fraud and unsuspecting ATM customers has landed a Venezuelan man five years in prison.

Luis Eduardo Moreno Castillo, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiring with two other foreign nationals to commit fraud at Scotia and Butterfield banks in July. He was sentenced Friday.

Between 5-7 July the men used forged bank cards to get $54,683 from Scotiabank and $6,106 from Butterfield Bank.

Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn said money was withdrawn from 23 Scotiabank accounts. The single largest amount from any one account was CI$7,300, which was obtained in 14 withdrawals over a matter of minutes.

Mrs. Gunn did not say how many Butterfield accounts were involved.

She said she believes the crime was a first for the Cayman Islands.

‘I have not heard of any other in which we have been targeted on this scale from outside,’ she said.

Castillo is a Venezuelan national who arrived here 30 June. His co-conspirators arrived five days earlier.

He admitted to sending sums of the illegal money off the island to avoid prosecution or confiscation.

More than $20,000 was sent by wire, with Castillo’s name on receipts, totalling $10,620.

The co-conspirators left the jurisdiction before Castillo’s arrest.

Mrs. Gunn said cash was found in his hotel room in the sums of US$9,500; almost CI$15,000 and 1,000 euros. She asked for confiscation of this money and the equipment used to make the cloned bank cards.

She said she had spoken to a Scotiabank representative about the effect of the fraud on the bank and was told it had caused customer confidence to drop and had raised concerns for security.

Mr. Justice Alexander Henderson agreed to the request for confiscation. He said in this case the most important principle of sentencing had to be deterring others who might be tempted to try such a scheme because it struck at the financial underpinnings of this country.

Defence Attorney John Furniss said Castillo became part of the crime because he was hurting financially.

Mr. Furniss said Castillo’s wife was pregnant with their third child and his mother had lung cancer. He said Castillo was not the instigator, but was drawn into the scheme by the others.

The only previous case of this kind referred to came out of the UK. Mr. Furniss said it involved people trained in Rumania who went to England and obtained 130,000 pounds by attacking ATMs with cameras and cloned cards. A total of 22,000 pounds was transferred. The UK Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of six years.

Castillo was sentenced to two years for each conspiracy plus one year for the seven charges of moving the money out of the country or attempting to. The ATM fraud was achieved in three steps, as detailed by Crown Counsel Kirsty-Ann Gunn.

The offenders first obtained PIN number of bank customers and then made forged cards using the information.

The cards were used to withdraw money from customer accounts using the banks’ ATM outlets.

Skimmer devices were put on the banks’ doors to the ATMS. One man would be inside where an ATM was while another would be outside, encouraging legitimate customers to swipe their card through the skimmer. Customers were led to believe that the men were there because the door was faulty and had to be physically unlocked.

The skimmer was actually reading the magnetic strip on the card.

Once the customer went to the ATM, there was a pin-hole camera that recorded the PIN used to access the account. The third conspirator was nearby receiving the transmissions from the camera.

Later the PINs were matched up with the account numbers and cloned cards were created.

The cloned cards were used from 10pm on 5 July until 2.30am on 6 July, and again on the night of 6-7 July.

The number of cards read was far in excess of the number of accounts compromised, Mrs. Gunn said.

As soon as the banks were alerted, they acted immediately, she told the court. When a customer informed a staff member that something was wrong with an account, the staff member went to the closed circuit television system and got a picture, which was quickly circulated.

A security guard at Foster’s recognised Castillo from the picture and apprehended him. Police were called and Castillo was arrested.

A search of his room revealed various pieces of equipment plus a laptop computer with software and lists of PINs and whether they were usable.

They also found over $2,000 worth of merchandise. Castillo had genuine credit cards from Venezuela, but local account information had been placed on them.

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