Seventeen defendants are facing federal fraud or related charges for their alleged roles in an international ATM skimming and money laundering scheme involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Two defendants were arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, and 13 defendants were arrested in Chicago and several suburbs by FBI agents following a lengthy international investigation.
The alleged scheme involved using ATM and debit card numbers and the personal identification numbers associated with them, which were fraudulently obtained in Europe, to withdraw money from victims’ accounts using automated teller machines at various locations in the Chicago area. The charges were brought in a 29-count indictment, which was returned by a federal grand jury on March 12 and was unsealed following the arrests.
“These charges are the result of the hard work of dedicated law enforcement personnel both here and abroad to address a transnational crime problem that can affect virtually anyone with a bank account and carries significant financial consequences. Cooperation with international law enforcement agencies was crucial to the investigation, and we are grateful for the assistance that led to these arrests,” said Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The arrests and charges were announced by Mr. Holley and Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. They praised the cooperation of the State Agency National Security and the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of Cassation in Bulgaria. The investigation is continuing, they said.
Two defendants, Radoslav Pavlov, 36, of Sofia, Bulgaria, also known as “Radi,” charged with wire fraud, and Mihail Petrov, 41, of Sofia, charged with wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and money laundering, were arrested in Sofia. The United States intends to seek their extradition to face the charges in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The indictment alleges that Pavlov, Petrov, and Domeniko Evitmov, 46, of Chicago, who was arrested here, were located outside the United States and fraudulently obtained ATM and debit card numbers and PINs from locations in Europe and elsewhere without the actual account holders’ knowledge.
Pavlov, Petrov, Evitmov, Alexander Savov, 47, of Carol Stream, Illinois, and others they directed then transferred the fraudulently obtained information, often by Skype or e-mail, to Gheorgui Martov, also known as “Mitsubishi” and “Mitsu,” 39, of Schiller Park, Illinois, who allegedly directed the scheme in the Chicago area. Martov gave the information to numerous co-defendants to make the fraudulent withdrawals from area ATMs, the charges allege, and the defendants divided the money they obtained.
Martov and his wife, Temenuga Koleva, aka “Nushka,” 37, also of Schiller Park, were each charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying computer files and Internet browsing history during the course of the FBI’s investigation. Koleva was also charged with being an accessory after the fact to wire fraud.
Martov, Petrov, and Emil Gospodinov, 44, of Chicago—who owned and operated BG Center Rodina, located 4828 N. Cumberland Ave. in Norridge, Illinois, a business that transmitted funds via MoneyGram, among other things—were charged with money laundering conspiracy for allegedly transmitting the fraudulently obtained funds from the United States to Bulgaria and elsewhere. After receiving funds from Martov, Gospodinov transmitted the funds to Martov’s alleged co-schemers outside the United States using nominee senders and receivers on the transactions to disguise the true identities of those sending and receiving the funds.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $200,000 from 15 defendants as alleged proceeds of the fraud, and it also seeks approximately $50,000 from Martov, Petrov, and Gospodinov as alleged proceeds of the money laundering.
The indictment alleges that once Martov obtained the ATM and debit card and PIN information he gave it to the following defendants to fraudulently withdraw money from area ATMs: Ivan Kotselov, 32, of Schiller Park; Georgi Vangelov, aka “Zhoro,” 26, of Schiller Park; Svetoslav Nedelchev, aka “Svetlyo,” 28, of Chicago; Daniel Yordanov, aka “Dani,” 29; Deyan Slavchev, aka “Dido,” 28, of Schiller Park; Karl Popovski, aka “Kiro Papata,” 23, of Chicago; Nikolay Todorov, aka “Niketsa,” 35, of Schiller Park; Mladen Gueorguiev, 25, of Chicago; Nedislav Gabov, 33, of Chicago; and Dimo Deshkov, 28, of Chicago.
After receiving the fraudulently obtained account data, defendants Kotselov, Vangelov, Nedelchev, Yordanov, Slavchev, Popovski, Todorov, Gueorguiev, and Gabov allegedly encoded the data onto the magnetic strip of blank or recycled cards. Once in possession of the encoded cards, various defendants traveled to Chicago-area ATMs to withdraw funds. The defendants, acting at Martov’s direction, made ATM withdrawals shortly before and after midnight in the timezone of the issuing bank in an attempt to circumvent the daily withdrawal limits on the victims’ accounts. The defendants also coordinated ATM transactions to withdraw money before the issuing banks could detect the fraud and deactivate the ATM and debit card numbers.
Martov was charged with 22 counts of wire fraud and four counts of money laundering in addition to the money laundering conspiracy and obstruction counts. Fourteen other defendants were each charged with one or more counts of wire fraud. Gospodinov was charged with four counts of money laundering in addition to the money laundering conspiracy.
Martov, his wife, and 11 other defendants were arraigned yesterday and pleaded not guilty to the charges against them before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin. Two defendants, Gueorguiev and Gabov were released on bonds, while the other 11 defendants who appeared in court yesterday remain in federal custody pending detention hearings scheduled for tomorrow and Friday. Yordanov is a fugitive and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Todorov is in state custody and will be arraigned on the federal charges on a date to be determined.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and restitution is mandatory. Money laundering conspiracy and each count of money laundering carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine or a fine totaling twice the value of the funds involved in the money laundering. The obstruction of justice count against Martov and Koleva carries a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the accessory count against Koleva carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $125,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Scott Edenfield, Matthew Getter, and Timothy Chapman. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Burke guided the investigation before he transferred last week from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago to the Eastern District of Virginia. The Office of International Affairs of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division provided assistance with this case.
The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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