This week, it was announced that four Quebec men had been sentenced after pleading guilty to charges stemming from their involvement in a cross-border conspiracy to commit access device fraud. The leader of the scheme, 22-year-old Mathieu Baaklini, was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment. 22-year-old Safwan Bensalma, 25-year-old Brandon Lo, and 22-year-old Nicolau Manfredi were sentenced to time served. Baaklini has also been ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution of more than $68,000.
The other three defendants will be required to pay $10,000 restitution each. Court records show that at various times from March and October of 2016, the four defendants traveled from Quebec to Burlington, Vermont. Once there, they used ATM machines in Burlington and Essex to acquire cash advances on counterfeit debit cards, which were made using the account information belonging to mostly European and Canadian accountholders. Authorities suspect that the card numbers may have been skimmed from taxi patrons in the Montreal area.
ATM transaction records and bank surveillance video show that roughly $8,800 in cash advances were withdrawn on May 24, 2016. On May 25, 2016, one defendant made $11,000 in wire transfers from Chittenden and Franklin Counties, Vermont to locations in Quebec. Between August 22 to August 25, 2017, NBT incurred roughly $54,000 in suspected fraud activity from 500 suspected cash advances on Canadian and European credit and debit cards. In total, the banks suffered losses of more than $98,000.
On October 21, 2016, agents carried out a search warrant on a storage unit in Chittenden County, Vermont. They recovered approximately $33,000 in cash, a laptop, card reading device, and roughly 378 gift cards with markings indicating they contained bank account information. All four defendants were arrested on October 24, 2016. Further details have been made available here.