NEWS

Bulgarian 3 Jailed For ATM Scam

No foreigner should ever be allowed to enter the country to engage in trying to skim money out of automated teller machines (ATM) at the expense of Fiji’s hardworking citizens.
09 Dec 2017 18:18
Bulgarian 3 Jailed For ATM Scam
From left: Simeon Stefanov Minchev outside the Lautoka Magistrates Court. Photo: Charles Chambers and Plamen Dimitrov Petrov before he was jailed for 12 months. Photo: Charles Chambers

No foreigner should ever be allowed to enter the country to engage in trying to skim money out of automated teller machines (ATM) at the expense of Fiji’s hardworking citizens.

Lautoka Magistrate Mosese Naivalu said this should serve as a stern warning to any foreigner intent on following the path of the three Bulgarians who were each jailed for 12 months and six days yesterday.

At the same time, Mr Naivalu acknowledged the work of Customs Officers Navneet Singh, Litimai and Roko and the Fiji Police Force.

Simeon Stefanov Minchev, 35, real estate agent of Varna Veliko Zhelev Velikov, 33, agricultural officer and businessman of General Toshevo, and Plamen Dimitrov Petrov, 41, farmer of Varna, in Bulgaria, were each charged with one count of possession of a skimming device with intent to dishonestly obtain personal financial information from Bred Bank’s ATM in Lautoka on November 12, this year.

Minchev faced an additional count of unauthorised access to restricted data whereby he had a PIN number from the same ATM by installing a camera there on the same day.

Velikov and Petrov also had an additional count each of attempted unauthorised access to restricted data where they attempted to access a Westpac ATM in Namaka, Nadi, also on the same day.

“Were you all able to carry out indiscriminately your illegal activities undisturbed, the damage and losses to your unsuspecting victims would have been catastrophic, especially over this festive season and the approaching start of school in the new year, next month,” Mr Naivalu said.

Outlining the facts, Mr Naivalu said Velikov and Petrov arrived first into the country on FJ 414 from Auckland, New Zealand, at 3.03 pm on November 8.

Whilst in the Customs Baggage Hall about an hour later, Customs Officer Navneet Singh noticed them acting in a suspicious manner and took them into the examination room.

Singh questioned them and found a latop bag containing one laptop, multi electronic cables, a card reader, 2 Samsung mobile phones, a wallet containing three ATM cards on Velikov.

The pair informed Singh their luggage was arriving the following day and Singh later informed the Transnational Crime Unit after the two left to stay at the Mercure Hotel.

The next day, Minchev arrived at around 5.46am on FJ 410 from Auckland and his luggage was inspected by customs officer Litimai and Roko and in it they found two mobile phones, a Samsung Galaxy S4 with 54 magnetic cards, Lonovo mobile phone with 84 magnetic cards, packet of runner bands and ear piece, a leather wallet containing 69 magnetic cards, 10 different types of credit cards, laptop, two wigs, a digital meter and other small items.

The next day, the three left for Lautoka in a rental car and over the next days between November 9 and November 12, took turns by placing the skimming devices in ATMs around Lautoka, Nadi and Namaka.

On November 11, Bred Bank Lautoka staff member Ravneet Prasad went to withdraw at their ATM and the found the card slot entrance loose.

Upon close inspection, he noticed a skimming device attached to the card slot, removed it and notified senior personnel and the matter was reported to the Police.

The following day, Minchev and Petrov while on their way to Suva, were intercepted and arrested near the Vunahalu Police Post and escorted back to Lautoka.

The next day, Velikov, tried to flee the country on Korean Airlines but was arrested by Police officers.

Among the items handed in to Police by the three were numerous visa and ATM cards.

The court heard that as a result of the skimming done at Westpac’s Namaka branch, the ATM went out of order and after being examined by bank staff the following day,  they found a large computer chip had been installed there already.

Camera footage from the ATM showed Velikov and Petrov installing the computer chip but luckily no data was taken out from any account.

For aggravating factors, Mr Naivalu said the three were foreign nationals, posed as tourists and had extensive equipment to aid in the offences.

The mitigating factors were they all pleaded guilty, did not obtain any funds, were remorseful and wanted to return to their families in Bulgaria.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

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