Foreign scammers ordered to pay $10,000 each
A Bulgarian and a Jamaican have been fined $10,000 each after they were caught soon after placing skimming devices at an ATM of the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG).
On their first visit to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Christopher Cole, 34 years, and Mirolav Stanoev, 31, came with a fiendish purpose in mind, but were unable to achieve their goals, and between the efforts of BOSVG and the police they were instead both nabbed.
The two entered the state on October 21 from St Maarten where Cole resides, and were set to leave the state on Independence Day, October 27.
They had skimming devices with them, micro SD cards, an external hard drive and an Acer laptop.
As Corporal Primus explained at the Serious Offences Court on Wednesday, to Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne, they had two types of skimming devices with them. The devices are designed to capture images of PIN numbers and collect debit card information. One of them found by the police was described as “more deadly” because it can be placed into the machine itself and when you insert your debit card it reads from the magnetic strip.
Once these devices are removed, the information can be taken from them and downloaded onto a computer. Replica cards may then be made, and all money removed from an ATM here or overseas.
It was October 23 when the BOSVG Reigate branch, conducting routine checks at about 8:50 am of the ATM, noticed a device attached at the #1 ATM.
They removed the device and checked the CCTV footage which showed the defendants affixing it at 8:30 that morning. The Major Crime Unit (MCU) was contacted and they launched an investigation into the report. Defendant Christopher Cole went back to the ATM at 12:30 pm with a checking card to make sure the device was working. He was nabbed by the MCU officers waiting outside. Cole took the police to the Chamber of Commerce car park where Stanoev was waiting in the car with an Acer laptop. He was arrested and a search of the car revealed another skimming device, a micro SD card, and an external hard drive.
They were interviewed and admitted to the offences of going equipped to steal, and conspiracy to commit the offence of theft.
Lawyer Israel Bruce mitigated for his clients. He explained that Cole, who grew up in Jamaica, moved to St Maarten in 2008 and has been there since. His wife is a resident of St Maarten, and he has four children, ages 11, 4, two, and three months. He works part time as a landscaper and in a bar, according to the lawyer. Stanoev on the other hand is born in Bulgaria, where he still resides and works as a waiter. He is not married and has no children.
“…The two men who are in the box right now – Cole and Stanoev – appear to be rather low, almost at ground level, with regards to the totem pole of the actors,” Bruce told the magistrate.
He said that his clients recognize that they acted foolishly and made wrong choices.
He also made the point that they cooperated with the police when they were caught. “Based on my understanding of what Corporal Primus explained moments ago, it would appear that had Stanoev and Cole been successful there may have been some resource loss to St Vincent,” Bruce noted, before suggesting that the two came to take money, they should instead leave some behind.
He said he would rather the men not be imprisoned, in order to facilitate the transferal of knowledge of the “unworthy craft” to any “excited” prisoner at Her Majesty’s Prison.
The Senior Prosecutor Adolphus Delpesche reminded that the defendants were then still on the totem pole, and as such could climb to the top.
He asked that SVG be protected and not contaminated, “but they must pay.”
The Chief Magistrate began with a custodial sentence, and recognized the loss of confidence that the kind of crime would attract for the financial institution, and that it was a planned activity. However, on the other hand they cooperated with the police and have no previous convictions.
With a view to both punishing and protecting, Browne decided to fine the men $10,000 for both counts, to be paid forthwith, with a default of seven and eight months in prison, to run concurrently.