1 year for ATM scam

Stolen cash forfeited to the Crown

Two Romanian men charged with fraudulently obtaining cash from an automated teller machine in Grand Cayman were sentenced on 8 March to one year in prison, in addition to forfeiting to the Crown a sum of cash that was seized from them.

Vladimir Oprisor and Paul Ovidiu Muresan arrived in the Cayman Islands on 11 February and were staying at the Grand Caymanian. They initially booked the hotel for two nights but extended their stay for several more days. On 15 February, an ATM detected the use of a ‘poker star card,’ which is often used in fraudulent schemes to store unsuspecting customers’ Personal Identification Numbers. This alerted officials to begin monitoring their closed circuit television. Soon after, photos of the suspects were released to various enforcement agencies.

As a result of the photos that were released, authorities at Owen Roberts International Airport spotted the two men attempting to board a flight to Cuba. They were arrested and interviewed by police, at which time both men admitted to possessing the cards and participating in fraudulent activity.

During the proceedings, Magistrate Nova Hall said it was believed that the men had taken up to CI$3,000 and US$2,000. She added that the exact amount of money the men had attempted to steal was unknown.

In their statements, the men said they had met a man named “Frank” on the beach who gave them the poker star cards and PIN numbers. Court records show that the men attempted to steal funds on various days between 13 and 15 February. There were 24 attempts to access funds that were denied by the ATM machine. However, four transactions on 13 and 14 February were successful. Upon arrest, the men were found to be in possession of $CI3,457, $US3,895 and six lei (Romanian currency).

The men plead guilty to the charges in Summary Court before Magistrate Hall, who heard from Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees that both men had previous convictions for drugs, organised crime and fraudulent activity. Also, both had recently been released from prison on those charges overseas and one of the defendants was essentially still on probation for his offenses overseas when the crimes took place in the Cayman Islands.

Ms Lees pointed out that the maximum sentence in such cases was seven years.

In addressing the court after being asked if they had anything to say, Vladimir Oprisor expressed remorse for the acts they had committed and begged the court for a low sentence and deportation. With regard to the confiscated funds being forfeited to the Crown, Oprisor told his translator to tell the court, “You can keep it”. His co-defendant offered similar remarks, saying the actions they had undertaken in Cayman were a mistake and he wanted to be deported home.

In sentencing the men, Magistrate Hall said their actions were a detriment to the Cayman Islands’ financial sector and undermined the jurisdiction’s high standard in banking.

“It is unfortunate to see an increase of this kind of case. It is not a large amount of money and this was a single enterprise undertaken by both men. As such, I will take a totality approach,” said the magistrate, who added that she had considered the men’s early pleas and cooperation with police.

She then sentenced both men to one year in prison each and ordered their time spent in custody since 25 February to be taken into account.

The money confiscated was ordered to be forfeited to the Crown.