4 Bulgarians jailed in Miami in elaborate ATM thefts

4 Bulgarians jailed in Miami in elaborate ATM thefts
4 Bulgarians jailed in Miami in elaborate ATM thefts

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McClatchy Newspapers
April 10, 2008

MIAMI =E2=80=94 Four one-way tickets Sofia-Miami: about $4,000.

Haul from the heist: at least $2 million.

Busting the four Bulgarians accused of ingeniously using tiny cameras to 
hijack ATMs, literally from the inside out: not just priceless but "very 
satisfying," said the Miami Beach detective who led six undercover 
colleagues in tracking them down and arresting them.

The four are now in the Miami-Dade County Jail following a two-month 
investigation. They are accused of installing "skimmers" on the outside 
of ATMs and cameras inside to capture PIN and account numbers, then 
reprogramming retail-store gift-card blanks and nefariously acquired 
credit cards with the information to withdraw money: about $200,000 in 
Miami Beach alone.

They used some gift cards to buy clothes, but most of the $2 million 
stolen was cash, the lead detective said. The undercover detectives' 
names were withheld to protect their anonymity.

Miami Beach police spokesman Detective Juan Sanchez said federal and 
local law-enforcement agencies had been chasing the four for two years, 
while they ripped off "thousands of victims" from South Florida to New 

The suspects likely shared victims' information with others, said the 
lead detective, who oversaw officers from the economic crimes and 
auto-theft units.

Facing multiple felony charges, including grand theft, criminal use of 
personal identification, credit-card fraud, violations of the 
Communications Fraud Act and tampering with evidence are: Nikolai H. 
Arabov, 37, also charged with cocaine possession; Diyan N. Dobrev, 34; 
Stanimir G. Kolev, 36, and Denislav Filipov, 19. All live in Hallandale 
Beach, Fla., and speak English, the detective said.

"We identified Arabov several weeks ago" and arrested him on April 3, 
the lead detective said, calling him the ringleader of an "organized 
Bulgarian group."

Arabov had bogus driver's licenses and passports in various names, the 
detective said.

Police said the suspects entered the United States legally on legitimate 
visas, but that Immigration Customs Enforcement was investigating.

Displaying hundreds of seized cards =E2=80=94 from Wal-Mart and Neiman Marcus, 
Washington Mutual and Wachovia banks, American Express and Visa, among 
others =E2=80=94 the accused crooks removed pieces of ATMs and modified them in 
what the lead detective described as a lab.

In most cases, the banks never noticed that someone had tampered with 
their equipment, despite surveillance cameras. Some individual victims 
realized within hours they'd been hit and notified police.

The suspects "actually placed a camera that records PIN numbers inside 
the ATM," perhaps the first to do so, the detective said.

Skimmers placed over the card slots captured information as a card was 
inserted and withdrawn.

"When it would get ejected ... it would synchronize with the camera," he 
said. Then the matching information was recorded in a log book.

"They literally had their own hard-drive that they could utilize in 
there," the detective said.

The suspects apparently tinkered with the ATMs late at night or in the 
early morning.

Surveillance video showed one man, shielded by another, carrying a 
Prince tennis-racquet case. He'd pop off an ATM component, slip it into 
the case and walk away. In some cases, they installed floodlights over 
the ATMs containing wireless cameras, police said.

The men had their own credit-card embosser and a library of how-to 
literature, including "Thief! The gutsy true story of an ex-con artist," 
by William Slick Hanner; "Secrets of a Back-Alley ID Man"; "Blacklisted 
411"; "Basics to Money Laundering," and copies of "2600: The Hacker 

After receiving a victim's complaint, police staked out a bank ATM, 
where they spotted one of the suspects removing a skimmer and arrested 
him, then the others.

Police seized laptop computers and hard-drive components from the 
Hallandale Beach "lab," along with an undisclosed amount of cash =E2=80=94 in 
which one of the suspects had gleefully wallowed for a photo.

"To say that they were shocked and surprised at being arrested would 
have been an understatement, especially when we showed them the evidence 
we had," the lead detective said.

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