RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - A Venezuelan man who was part of a card-skimming group that stole tens of thousands of dollars from victims’ bank accounts across multiples states will spend four years in federal prison for the crimes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Ricardo Abdel, of Doral, Fla. and a permanent resident alien from Venezuela, was also given three years of supervised release after pleading guilty last year to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. He will be required to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution to the victims.
In March 2018, the Wilmington Police Department was alerted by investigators with the State Employees’ Credit Union (SECU) fraud division of ongoing fraudulent withdraws from several ATMs in the Wilmington area.
On March 5, 2018, SECU and the WPD alerted the United States Secret Service about individuals attempting to make fraudulent withdraws from an ATM on Wrightsville Avenue. Officers responded to the location and made a traffic stop on a vehicle in which Abdel and two other men were riding in.
A search of the vehicle revealed over $9,000 in cash, numerous debit and credit cards, computers, digital storage media, and two debit/credit card readers/encoders. A forensic analysis of the seized computers and cell phones revealed 566 individual card numbers which were issued by 71 different financial institutions.
Investigators determined the group was using the fraudulent cards at multiple ATM locations in Wilmington over a period of several days. SECU investigators also said a skimming device was placed inside a SECU ATM in Leland.
The intended loss was calculated at $283,000.
On July 3, 2018, investigators received credible information that other co-conspirators were based in Venezuela and the Miami area and were involved in the scheme.
Investigators believe the group was traveling to various states, including Georgia, California, and Florida to install the skimming devices.
The group was believed to be making $250,000 a month as a result of the scheme.
The United States Secret Service, the Wilmington Police Department, and the Kure Beach Police Department conducted the investigation.