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Feds: Group that stole credit card numbers, PINs is broken up

Updated: April 28, 2014 10:27AM



An international ATM skimming operation that stole credit card numbers and PINs in Europe and used them to withdraw cash at Chicago-area ATMs has been broken up, the feds say.

A total of 17 defendants — 13 of whom were arrested in and around Chicago on Tuesday — are indicted in connection with the ATM skimming and money laundering scheme, which was allegedly run from Sofia, Bulgaria.

Two key defendants, Radoslav “Radi” Pavlov, 36, and Mihail Petrov, 41, were arrested in Sofia and face extradition to the U.S.

Prosecutors allege Pavlov and Petrov teamed up with Domeniko Etimov, 46, of Chicago, stole the credit card numbers and pins in Europe, then emailed and skyped them to the U.S. with the help of Alexander Savov, 47, of Carol Stream.

Gheorgui “Mitsubishi” Martov, 39, of Schiller Park — who the feds say directed the gang’s Chicago operation — then allegedly dished out the numbers to other defendants to make the fraudulent ATM withdrawals using phony cards they manufactured.

At a minimum, hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen, the feds say.

Martov and his wife, Temenuga “Nushka” Koleva, 37, both tried to cover up the scam by destroying computer files and internet browsing history, it’s alleged.

Their codefendants made multiple ATM withdrawals close to and on either side of midnight so they could circumvent daily cash limits, the feds say.

Martov, Petrov, and Emil Gospodinov, 44, of Chicago, who owned a Norridge business, then allegedly laundered the cash by wiring it back to Bulgaria and elsewhere using phony names.

Though the indictment doesn’t make it clear how the card numbers and PINs were stolen without the cardholder’s knowledge, the victims were likely American, since European credit and debit cards typically carry a chip that makes them harder to replicate.

“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,” said Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI. “Cooperation with international law enforcement agencies was crucial to the investigation, and we are grateful for the assistance that led to these arrests.”

Martov, his wife and 11 other defendants pleaded not guilty Tuesday and remain in custody.

Two defendants, Mladen Gueorguiev, 25, and Nedislav Gabov, 33, both of Chicago, were released on bond.

One defendant, Dani Yordanov, 29, of Schiller Park, remains at large.

Email: kjanssen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @kimjnews



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