Two more arrested in alleged ATM scheme

Pair is accused of stealing PIN, credit card data

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / January 30, 2010

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Two more suspects, including one who was in possession of nearly $100,000 when he was arrested, are facing charges in an alleged scheme to steal ATM card data from unwitting customers in Eastern Massachusetts, authorities said yesterday.

One of the two, Anton Venkov, 40, of Toronto, was arrested Thursday by the US Secret Service in Boston and charged with using counterfeit bank account access codes and aiding and abetting the plot. He has not yet entered a plea and has a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday in federal court. Authorities say he had $99,100 in $20 bills in his car when he was arrested at Best Western Roundhouse Suites on Massachusetts Avenue.

Another alleged member of the plot, Vladislav Vladev, 36, of Quincy, was also arrested Thursday while sitting on a plane that was headed for Germany, at Logan International Airport, Norfolk County prosecutors said. He was arraigned in Quincy District Court yesterday on larceny and identity fraud charges relating to a theft from a Milton ATM on Granite Avenue. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $1 million cash bail. He has a hearing scheduled for Monday.

State Police said Vladev is from Bulgaria.

Prosecutors say Venkov and Vladev teamed up with Ivaylo Hristov, 28, of Ontario, who was arrested Wednesday, and stole debit and credit card data and PIN numbers by placing scanner devices and hidden cameras in ATM machines at several locations. Authorities believe they have stolen at least $100,000 from customers at Citizens Bank and other institutions.

Hristov was also charged yesterday in the Milton ATM theft and ordered held on $500,000 cash bail. He was charged Thursday for an alleged similar scheme in Quincy and was ordered held on $1 million cash bail. He is due back in Quincy District Court on Monday.

The Secret Service learned in December that a Bank of America ATM in Saugus had been rigged with the scanner device, called a skimmer, and a pinhole camera, according to a court affidavit from a Secret Service agent. A surveillance photo showed Vladev attaching the skimmer, the affidavit said. Another photo allegedly showed Hristov removing the camera.

Authorities were informed on Jan. 22 of ATM tampering at Citizens Bank locations in Quincy, Milton, Braintree, and Somerville, the affidavit said. Surveillance photos showed the same men at the Citizens locations, according to the affidavit.

Three days later, photos showed the men rigging Bank of America ATM machines in Saugus, Milton, Weymouth, Cambridge, Dorchester, and Roslindale, the affidavit said.

Hristov was arrested on Wednesday near a Citizens ATM in Quincy, with local police acting on a tip from the bank’s security team. He had $1,380 in $20 bills at the time of his arrest, according to the affidavit, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards and American Express cards with post-it notes that had “PIN’’ and various numbers written on them.

Quincy police said Hristov told them that he received 10 percent from the thieves’ withdrawals and gave the rest to Vladislav to deposit into an account in Chicago. He also had a card for a storage unit in Weymouth that he said contained equipment used in the scam, police said. They are seeking a search warrant for the unit.

The Secret Service learned yesterday that Venkov had checked into the Best Western and rented a black Infiniti, the affidavit said. He was arrested soon afterward and allegedly told investigators that Vladev urged him to come to the United States to make some easy money. Hristov and Venkov told authorities that they were born in Bulgaria but had Canadian citizenship.

David Traub, a spokesman for Norfolk District Attorney William R. Keating, said authorities believe this group of suspects is responsible for most of the ATM thefts in Eastern Massachusetts. He declined to say whether investigators believed there were others working in other parts of the state or region.

Keating told reporters yesterday that bank customers should check their balances and contact their banks and local police if they notice any suspicious withdrawals.