The last two members of an ATM “skimming" ring that stole more than $300,000 -- including the 53-year-old kingpin from Kirkland -- have been sentenced to prison.
Ismail Sali, whose Kirkland home was searched by the federal authorities in September and who , was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison, five years of supervised release and $328,161 in restitution for bank fraud, conspiracy, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
On Friday, the last of the six member of the ring, Ion Armeanca, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Seattle to three years in prison.
Several of the six are Romanian nationals who will be deported. Sali, however, is a U.S. citizen. “Mr. Sali had achieved citizenship,” said Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Western Washington. “He is originally from Romania.”
The sentencings wrap up the case that was cracked when a Snohomish County woman alerted Bothell Police after . See a .
At Thursday’s sentencing of Sali, U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik said, “This type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
Sali and his co-conspirators used high tech devices and pinhole cameras to obtain personal information from bank customers, then drained their bank accounts. The Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force discovered that Sali had been involved in skimming in the Seattle area as early as 2007. They also say Sali and Eugen Tirca, who also lived in the Kirkland home, continued skimming even after their co-conspirators were arrested. Tirca was sentenced in April to 5.5 years in prison.
In their sentencing memo, federal prosecutors said: “Undeterred by the arrest and prosecution of their associates, Sali and Tirca continued to relentlessly pillage the savings of honest Americans. This operation’s ties to international criminal activity is also extremely aggravating. Large amounts of personal victim information and cash proceeds of fraud were sent overseas, beyond the reach of the American criminal justice system. Simply put, Sali remorselessly pursued greed, leaving behind a wake of emptied bank accounts and confused and frustrated victims. He stole what belonged to others in utter disregard to the potential dire consequences to their hundreds of innocent victims, many of whom may live paycheck to paycheck.”
“Skimming is a cybercrime that costs our economy over a billion dollars and hurts thousands of victims,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, herself a victim of skimming, said after the sentencings. “This defendant lead a group of thieves who thrived on people’s money. I commend the Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force for dismantling this ring.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Secret Service have some tips for consumers to try to avoid being victimized by skimmers:
- If the access door to a lobby ATM is broken, don’t use the ATM, go somewhere else.
- If there is more than one ATM, and a sign has been placed on one of the units saying it is out of service, go somewhere else – the sign could be an attempt to direct traffic to the machine where skimming equipment is installed.
- Check the machine before putting your card in – is the card slot securely in the machine? Has anything been installed around the edges of the machine that could conceal a camera? Is any glue or sticky substance around the key pad or card slot?
- Always attempt to cover your hand when you enter your PIN so that if there is a camera, the numbers cannot be captured.
- Watch your account activity and report any unauthorized credit or debit charges immediately.