Bulgarian jailed for raids on cash machines

A Bulgarian national was jailed for two years yesterday for conspiracy to commit theft by rigging ATMs.

Danail Damov, 37, was also sentenced to six months for damaging an ATM at Collector’s Hill and four months for damaging another at Paget Plaza.

Prosecutor Alan Richards said Damov came to Bermuda as a visitor from Bulgaria to carry out a “sophisticated criminal enterprise” that required “understanding and determination”.

Mr Richards said the crimes spanned a “significant” period of time and involved two separate visits to the island for the “purpose of fraud”.

He added that “acts of this nature appear sadly to be increasing” and that society needed to be protected from like-minded individuals.

The court heard that Damov arrived in September 2016 and was caught on CCTV tampering with a Butterfield Bank ATM at Collector’s Hill with another man.

Prosecutor Kenlyn Swan said Butterfield’s head of electronic banking was alerted to fraudulent transactions on the accounts of three customers, who had used the ATM, in December 2016.

Cash was later withdrawn in the Dominican Republic. The bank machine was inspected and two small drill holes were found in the card reader.

Ms Swan said the CCTV footage showed one man taking a drill out of his bag and another, who she said was Damov, attaching a device to the ATM before walking away.

She added that Damov was later seen returning to the ATM to remove the device.

Ms Swan said Damov returned to Bermuda on October 10, 2017 and a skimming device was found at the Paget Plaza ATM three days later.

An employee had gone to replenish the machine but the test card jammed. He was able to retrieve the scratched card and reported the incident. The machine was inspected and the card skimmer found.

CCTV footage showed a man wearing a white helmet trying to remove the device and Damov was arrested on October 20 — two days before he was due to leave the island.

He denied the offences and told police: “I can explain. It’s a mistake.”

Damov said he was at the ATMs to withdraw cash. But Ms Swan said he visited the machine 11 times between October 11 and October 13.

She added that it cost the bank $535 to repair the ATMs and replace the test card.

Prosecutor Alan Richards said it cost another $1,000 to replace customer’s cards.

Damov, represented by lawyer Richard Horseman, admitted the three offences, which took place between September 1, 2016, and October 21, 2017, in Supreme Court on April 13.

Damov apologised to the court yesterday and said he had made a “big mistake” and was “deeply sorry”.

He added that he had spent the past six months in custody and that he would never “do this again”.

Damov pleaded with the court not to send him to jail.

But Mr Richards said a 2½- year sentence was appropriate after any discount had been applied. He added that although Damov had paid back the $535, this could be “characterised as too little too late”.

Mr Richards said that a total of $77,529 was taken from 49 customers’ accounts in 497 transactions in the Dominican Republic between November 2016 and January 2017.

He added: “The act in October 2017 was interrupted so it would appear that mercifully no customers’ funds were stolen.”

Mr Horseman argued that a sentence of less than a year would fit the crime.

But Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons pointed out that there was obvious planning involved in the offences, which also required sophisticated equipment.

She agreed with the Crown that the sentence should be a deterrent so that Bermuda would not be seen “as an easy mark”.

Ms Justice Simmons took into account Damov’s guilty plea and that he had paid for the $535 in damage he had caused.

She ordered the two sentences for damage to the ATMs to run consecutively, but alongside the two years for conspiracy to commit theft.

Ms Justice Simmons also ordered that the six months already served should be taken into account.

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