ATM Skimmer Pleads GuiltyFraudster Linked to Conspiracy, Faces up to 30 Years
Gabriella Graham, a 21-year-old who once lived in New London, Conn., on Dec. 19 told a U.S. Court in New Haven that she helped produce counterfeit ATM/debit cards with skimmed card data, copied PINs and occasionally used the counterfeit cards to make unauthorized ATM cash withdrawals. She also told the court she served as a lookout while two other co-conspirators installed and removed skimming devices.
According to the Nov. 15 indictment, Graham and co-conspirators Mehmet Aydin, 42, and Ahmet Cilek, 40, both of Turkey but living in New York, between February 2011 and July 2011 targeted ATMs at 11 banks and one credit union in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Their alleged skimming attacks resulted in financial losses of more than $335,000.
Sentencing for Graham has been set for March 8. She could face 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Trial dates for Aydin and Cilek have not been set.
ATM Skimming: An Epidemic
The New England scheme is just one in a long line of ATM skimming scams upon which authorities have been closing books in recent months. On the same day Graham pleaded guilty, the District Attorney for Connecticut also announced the sentencing of Ion Constantine for the role he played in an ATM and ATM-vestibule skimming scheme that between March 2010 and April 2010 targeted People's United Bank branches in Connecticut.
Constantine, also known as Tarzan, a 34-year-old citizen of Romania, was sentenced to 46 months in jail and five years of supervised release. He also has been ordered to pay a $10,000 fine and restitution totaling $60,664.
In November, a special task force in Westchester County, N.Y., arrested five people for their alleged connection to a $1 million ATM fraud scheme. And, in a separate November case, authorities in New York announced the arrest of two Bulgarians who had been linked to a similar skimming scheme targeting Chase ATMs in Manhattan. [See Skimmers Busted by Fraud Detection.]
But what makes the New England case different is the plea agreement. Until now, most skimming case defendants have taken their chances with the courts, opting for trials rather than deals. McAfee consultant Robert Siciliano says Graham's plea reflects improvements on the parts of law enforcement and prosecutors to charge more suspects by tying them to a single crime.
"One way they accomplish this is by getting low-level mules like Graham to plead guilty and receive a lower sentence in cooperation for her testimony against her accomplices," Siciliano says.