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Manhattan U.S. Attorney Charges Bulgarian Man with Using Stolen Bank Account Information to Defraud Banks of Over $1 Million
Scheme Involved Installation of Surreptitious Surveillance Equipment at New York City ATMs

U.S. Attorney’s Office September 23, 2010
  • Southern District of New York (212) 637-2600

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and JANICE K. FEDARCYK, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI"), announced that RADOSTIN PARALINGOV was arrested on Monday evening in Las Vegas, Nevada, on charges relating to the theft of account information of bank customers who used ATMs in the New York City area. PARALINGOV allegedly used the information to defraud two banks out of over $1 million.

According to the Indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court:

ATM cards used by customers to access their accounts are encoded with customer account information, in addition to a Personal Identification Number ("PIN"), which the customer enters into the ATM by means of a keypad. "Skimming" is an illegal activity that involves the installation of a device, usually undetectable by ATM users, that secretly records the user’s bank account data when the user inserts an ATM card into the ATM machine. Skimming also typically involves the use of a hidden camera, also installed on or near an ATM, to record customers’ entry of their PINs into the ATM’s keypad. Skimming devices are typically installed on ATMs for short periods of time—typically just a few hours—before they are removed by the individuals involved in the skimming activity. Once removed, the account information that was collected by the devices is retrieved and encoded onto blank ATM cards, in effect creating a duplicate of the cards used by the bank customers. With the stolen PINs obtained by the hidden cameras, individuals engaged in skimming use the duplicate cards at ATMs to fraudulently withdraw money from bank customers’ accounts.

From at least December 2007 through June 2009, PARALINGOV and ULIAN PARLINGOV, who is also charged in the indictment but has not yet been arrested, participated in a scheme to install skimming devices on ATMs in the New York City area, and then used the stolen account information to fraudulently withdraw over $1 million from the victims’ accounts. RADOSTIN PARALINGOV primarily installed skimming devices on ATMs at branches of Citibank, N.A., and JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

PARALINGOV, 19, of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, was arrested at McFarren International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, after arriving on a flight from London. PARALINGOV is charged in an Indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, PARALINGOV faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison each for the conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud charges, a maximum sentence of seven and a half years in prison for the conspiracy to commit access device fraud charge, and a two-year consecutive mandatory sentence for the aggravated identity theft charge.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI, and thanked Citibank and JPMorgan Chase for their cooperation in the investigation.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: "Individuals engaged in the theft and exploitation of private bank account information steal from hard-working citizens and threaten the integrity of our financial institutions. When New Yorkers step up to an ATM, they should not be worried about being robbed blind. This Office is committed to working with the FBI to pursue individuals engaged in ATM skimming before they can cause further harm."

FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge JANICE K. FEDARCYK said: "Technology, which puts banking and retail commerce at one's fingertips, can also arm criminals with the tools to exploit those systems and commit wholesale theft. Radostin Paralingov allegedly participated in a skimming scheme that drained the bank accounts of numerous innocent people. The FBI is serious about protecting banks and bank customers from cyber-crooks."

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney JOSEPH P. FACCIPONTI is in charge of the prosecution.

The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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