ATM thief sentenced to 20 months

A man who pleaded guilty to thefts and attempted thefts from the ATMs of two local banks was sentenced on Monday to 20 months’ imprisonment.

Bulgarian national Nikolay Nikolov, 35, admitted stealing or trying to steal from Butterfield Bank and Cayman National Bank ATMs between Sept. 23 and Sept. 28.

Nikolov also pleaded guilty to a charge of transferring criminal property in relation to the transfer of CI$1,000 from Cayman to Bulgaria via wire transfer on Sept. 27.

Defense attorney John Furniss explained that his client had owned a business in Bulgaria but had to sell it because of the real estate crash and he owed 70,000 euros. Someone in Bulgaria bought his debt and Nikolov then had to work for that person.

He was subsequently given items to bring to Cayman,  including a card reader and gift cards, and was told to “bring back as much as you can,” Mr. Furniss said. The card reader could read cards, but could not put new numbers on them, the attorney noted. Nikolov accepted that he had sent money to the person who gave him the items.

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Crown counsel Scott Wainwright told the court that CNB reported to police on Sept. 27 that an attempt had been made to get money from its ATM at Buckingham Square using cloned cards. The bank provided a video of two suspects. Police also learned that cloned cards had been retained by Butterfield Bank ATMs elsewhere.

The Financial Crime Unit tracked Nikolov from a scooter rental business to the Riviera Hotel on South Church Street, where he was found in a room and arrested.

Officers found the card reader and 68 gifts cards in the room, plus one in his wallet. They also found CI$2,460 and US$400 in the lining of a suitcase, plus CI$143 and US$20 in the wallet.

CNB reported a loss of $725 and attempted thefts totaling $7,500. Butterfield Bank reported a loss of $250 and attempted thefts totaling $4,350.

Mr. Wainwright said Nikolov made admissions when interviewed.

Magistrate Adam Roberts asked about the second man in the video. Mr. Wainwright said that may have been a red herring. Mr. Furniss said Nikolov came here by himself. Mr. Furniss said his instructions were that the CI money found in the hotel room had come from ATMs.

In passing sentence, the magistrate said Nikolov had come to Cayman with the sole intent of committing crime and undermining Cayman’s banking system. He succeeded in stealing approximately $1,000 and had attempted to steal $12,000.

The magistrate said he could not ignore the large number of gift cards the defendant had and the fact that he had already started transferring funds.

Noting that defendants who pleaded guilty in a recent case had received sentences between 20 and 30 months, the magistrate settled on 20 months because Nikolov had no previous convictions.

Mr. Wainwright said amounts of money were still being sorted out and there would be a further hearing in Summary Court. Meanwhile, compensation was to be paid to the two banks from money recovered from the defendant.

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