Plamen Atanasov, of Sandy Springs, and three others have pleaded guilty to stealing bank debit card numbers and passwords of more than 4,700 people using a skimming device on ATM’s throughout the Atlanta metro area.
A media statement from the United States Attorney Northern District Office named Atanasov, Stoyno Filtshev, Nedyalko Palazov, and WB Wohrman and Tsvetil Ilieve in the case, and says that from August 2011 through January 2013, the five used illegal skimming devices to steal over $380,000 from bank customers by installing the devices at Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo ATMs.
When a customer used those ATMs the device would electronically record the customer’s debit card number and a small camera in the device would video record the ATM keyboard as the customer entered his or her password.
The defendants then downloaded the information from the device to a computer. Using a magnetic stripe card reader/writer, they re-encoded gift cards with the stolen account information. They then used the altered gift cards at ATMs to withdraw money from the victims’ bank accounts.
On December 28, 2012, Bulgarian Customs officials notified the Secret Service in Atlanta that they had identified a DHL parcel being shipped to the United States as containing illegal skimming devices. The Secret Service obtained a federal search warrant for the package, found three skimming devices, and then disabled them before returning them to the mail stream. The package went to a UPS Store in Atlanta.
Wohrman and other co-conspirators were listed as authorized recipients of mail to the UPS box. On January 8, 2013, Palazov, went to the UPS Store and retrieved the package.
Filtshev, Wohrman, Atanasov, Iliev, and Palazov were indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 22, 2013, for conspiracy, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Palazov and Iliev fled Atlanta before they were arrested. Palazov was arrested during a stopover in Munich, Germany after he boarded a plane in Mexico headed for Bulgaria. He was extradited from Germany and is now in custody in Lovejoy, Ga.
Iliev, 34, remains a fugitive.
On Thursday, Palazov pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft Last Friday, Filtshev and Atanasov pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. On Dec. 18, 2013, Wohrman pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy, access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, the access device fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, and the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence. The two-year sentence for aggravated identity theft must run consecutively to any other sentence imposed. Each count also carries a fine of up to $250,000.
Sentencing of the four defendants is scheduled for March 26.
Reginald G. Moore, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Atlanta Field Office said, “The Secret Service, in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, will continue to actively investigate and arrest those that commit crimes that prey on unsuspecting victims.”
A Related Case
On Nov. 19, 2013, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Zira M. Bailey, 26, of Picayune, Miss., Michael J. Ellis, 35, of Atlanta, Ga., and Bryan S. Kees, 36, of Savannah, Ga., for participating in an ATM skimming operation and targeting SunTrust ATMs in metro Atlanta, Savannah, Ga., and Florida. Bailey and Ellis received mail at the UPS Store box where the skimming equipment arrived from Bulgaria.
The investigation also determined that these three defendants assisted Palazov and Iliev in fleeing the United States after their indictment. An additional 500 victims are linked to Bailey, Ellis, and Kees from the SunTrust ATMs.