Aleksandar Nikolov and Toscho Ilyeff were arrested in Plantation, Florida on charges of trafficking in counterfeit credit cards, reports indicate. Ilyeff and Nikolov were booked in Broward County, where they were both placed on immigration holds. It is not clear whether the men have retained a private criminal defense attorney. The pair is not eligible for bail bond until their immigration holds have been cleared.
According to the arrest reports, Nikolov, 33, and Ilyeff, 38, are charged with going several ATMs in Plantation, FL on Sunday, including a Chase bank ATM located on Pine Island Road, where they used stolen credit card information to withdraw cash. Bank security officials became suspicious because of the number of transactions and alerted police, who were able to track the activity to a Citybank ATM near West Broward Boulevard. Police went to the location and found Nikolov and Ilyeff there.
When they responded to the scene, officials found the two men. Nikolov reportedly had over $1000 in cash and over 20 credit cards and gift cards in his possession, while Ilyeff had $1100 in cash and 13 credit cards and gift cards. All of the material is believed to have been stolen. The two suspects appear to have cooperated with the arresting officers.
Nikolov and Ilveff were labled a flight risk at their initial hearing on Monday in Broward County because of their “lack of ties to South Florida,” as the judge put it. Nikolov told the judge that he is from Chicago, Illinois, where he reported living for the last 10 years. Ilyeff said that he was from Bulgaria and had come to the U.S. in February for a visit.
The arrest report stated that Ilyeff and Nikolov are suspected of using skimming techniques, which is used to steal information from ATMs. First, a reading device is installed at the ATM. Then the device records the information stored in the magnetic strip of any ATM card that is inserted into the slot, as well as the PIN that the customer punches in and the bank account number. Later, the scammer comes back to collect the information or the contraption wires the information to the scammer. The information can then be coded onto fraudulent cards and used to withdraw money from ATMs or complete other transactions.
A Plantation police detective told the press that skimming is a fairly common crime because of a recent increased availability of skimming devices. “It’s an easy crime to commit and a lot of times it goes undetected,” he told the press. “By the time, the victims find out, when they get their credit card statements, it’s too late.”
In order to ward of skimming, officials encourage ATM users to take a good look at the ATM before using it to make sure that there are no foreign devices attached to the card reader. They also encourage users to conceal the keypad with their hand while typing in their PIN, in case a hidden camera is watching.