One of two men involved in the placement of a bank card “skimmer” at Regions Banks in Dalton and East Ridge last year, was sentenced Thursday to serve 38 months in federal prison and ordered to repay the bank $72,480.
Atanas G. Georgiev, 29, of 8193 Brookwood Valley Circle, Atlanta, appeared before Judge Curtis Collier. He remains free on bond, but must report to prison on Dec. 10.
The other man, Chris Svetlinov Dragiev, 28, of Kennesaw, Ga., was arrested on state charges and is now a fugitive after making bond. Both men are natives of Bulgaria, but are American citizens.
They were arrested shortly after another skimmer device was placed on an ATM at another bank in Nashville.
Authorities said the skimmers allowed the pair to obtain magnetic strip account information on Regions customers. Also, a small camera allowed them access to customer PIN numbers.
They used blank Walmart gift cards that were recoded with the customer account information and could be used to take money from customer accountants at ATMs.
Authorities said the pair traveled to several states, including Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, getting money from ATMs.
Authorities who had been searching for the pair finally detected them at an ATM at Dickerson Pike in the Nashville area.
When investigators started checking video feeds from other ATMs nearby, they saw the suspects covering an ATM camera with a sticky note at approximately 4:30 p.m. They made contact with metro Nashville Police Department who pulled over the suspects’ vehicle, a silver Volkswagen Tourag, near Opryland shortly afterward.
The suspects had the keys to an Audi in the car with them, and investigators believe that they changed cars after using a red Audi in the Dalton incident.
Authorities said the skimmer device was placed at the East Ridge Regions Bank ATM in late September or early October 2011.
Secret Service Agent Douglas Dale said the total take from about 75 customers was computed to be $75,130 from customers. He said some customers apparently did not report their losses to the bank or ask for a refund.
He said when they were arrested, hats and sunglasses were found in the vehicle. He said they wore those to help disguise themselves.
They also had 39 recoded Walmart gift cards with them.
The agent said a GPS device found with them was analyzed and the route matched that where ATMs had been used to withdraw money from the accounts of the customers.
Gregg Sullivan prosecuted the case for the government.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said, “Financial fraud occurs too often in our society. Whether it is a credit, debit or ATM card, or in another form, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will actively pursue and prosecute those who violate federal criminal law. Knowledge of fraud of this nature should be reported to the Secret Service or the FBI.”
The conviction is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, Chattanooga Police Department, East Ridge Police Department, Metro Nashville Police Department, and Dalton, Ga., Police Department.