11/16/2011 07:33 EST | Updated 01/16/2012 05:12 EST

New York ATM Scam: Canadian Tourists Charged After $300,000 Skimmed


NEW YORK, N.Y. - Three Canadian tourists planted hidden video cameras and other technology to steal passwords — and nearly US$300,000 — from ATM users in New York City, U.S. prosecutors said Wednesday.

By outfitting bank cash machines with "skimming" devices that read ATM card numbers, coupled with hidden video cameras that recorded people typing in their passwords, the trio was able to access almost 1,500 bank accounts, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.'s office said.

Two suspects, Dimitar Stamatov, 28, and Nikolai Ivanov, 31, were being held on $500,000 bail after pleading not guilty Wednesday to scheming to defraud, grand larceny and other charges.

Ivanov's 24-year-old brother, Iordan, also has been indicted, but prosecutors said he was at large and believed to be in Canada.

Stamatov's lawyer, Rene Medina, noted that the charges against the men were only accusations.

Nikolai Ivanov's lawyer, Mark Bederow, added that the coming months would provide time to "peel back the onion and see what's there."

Stamatov and Nikolai Ivanov planted 11 of the unobtrusive cameras and skimming gadgets — which look like small green plastic sleeves over the slots where bank cards get inserted — at JPMorgan Chase ATMs in Manhattan on a five-day trip from Montreal in January, prosecutors said.

Then they returned with Iordan Ivanov and did more skimming in May, according to prosecutors.

By matching the card numbers read by the skimmers with the passwords captured on video, the thieves got enough info either to sell to others or to make up bank cards and use them for a total of $285,000 in fraudulent cash withdrawals and purchases, prosecutors said.

Much of the stolen money was wired to the men's native Bulgaria, prosecutors said. The Ivanov brothers are naturalized Canadian citizens, while Stamatov is a legal permanent resident of Canada, authorities said.

New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it had notified and issued new cards to all customers who were affected.

ATM users can try to protect themselves against skimming by looking out for ATMs that appear altered with temporary-looking fixtures and by shielding their hands when typing in passwords, prosecutors suggested.