ATM card-skimming devices alleged

Visitor charged with attempting to steal credit and debit card data

A Bulgarian national who arrived in Cayman on March 21 has been remanded in custody until April 21 on two counts of attempted theft from ATM machines through the use of a card-skimming device.

Andon Krastev Smilyanov, 32, is charged with attempting to steal credit card and debit card track data from Cayman National Bank by dishonestly attempting to obtain the track data from Automatic Teller Machines with the use of a card-skimming device.

The first charge alleges that the offense took place at Foster’s in The Strand shopping plaza between 5:53 a.m. and 5:58 a.m. on March 27.

The second charge alleges an offense at Foster’s Food Fair in the Airport Centre between 5:16 a.m. and 5:21 a.m. on March 26.

In Summary Court last Wednesday, Crown counsel Alexander Upton told Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn that sophisticated equipment had been found on the defendant and the case against him was overwhelming. He said the Crown believed there were 60 to 100 people seen on CCTV footage whose card details had potentially been compromised.

Defense attorney Dennis Brady, who provided a summary of the background to the charges, also explained that he had been asked by officers of the Financial Crime Unit to assist the defendant as counsel amicus [without being formally retained] because there were concerns about time constraints regarding the custody of the accused. He said he sat through an interview that lasted six or seven hours at Central Police Station on April 2. A representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions Office, who was on stand-by to give a ruling on the police investigation at that stage, ruled that Smilyanov be charged with two counts of attempted theft while investigations continued.

Mr. Brady told the court that the Financial Crime Unit had been investigating complaints, particularly from CNB, relating to what are called card-skimming devices being installed in ATMs. The device enables the operator to capture information they might use locally or internationally to access card numbers, and then various sums of money are transferred.

Mr. Brady said the bank’s CCTV captured the image of a man matching Smilyanov’s description implanting a device. When further checks were made, one such device was in operation in the ATM where the man was seen implanting something.

Police made inquiries and traced him to an apartment at Treasure Island Resort that was occupied by Smilyanov. In a suitcase identified as his, officers discovered a device similar to the one recovered from the ATM. The defendant was interviewed regarding the CCTV and the device found in his room; he denied putting any device into the machine or withdrawing any cash from the machine.

Mr. Brady said police were awaiting forensic analysis and checks with Interpol to determine the defendant’s true identity plus any other information that might be available about him.

On Wednesday morning, Mr. Brady related, he was in court for another matter when he was approached by officers and told him that a second attorney who had been contacted could not represent Smilyanov. Mr. Brady was approached again to represent him: “I can’t say for how long.” No bail application was made. Mr. Upton asked for a further two weeks and the next mention date was set for Tuesday, April 21.

The court was assisted on both days by a resident who served as translator.