back to article US card scammers pull $2m petrol heist

US attorneys have charged thirteen people in connection with a massive fraud operation which netted some $2m in stolen funds. The Manhattan District Attorney's office says that four defendants masterminded a plot to install card skimming devices at gas pumps throughout the southern US and then use a network of money mules to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If found guilty

    Would the alleged criminals serve time in the North or in the South?

    Neither option is pleasant I'm sure, but I'd imagine that a Northern institution would be preferred.

    1. Joe User

      Re: If found guilty

      My vote:

      - Northern jail in the winter, with no heat.

      - Southern jail in the summer, with no air conditioning.

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: If found guilty

      Let's see now, federal crime, federal charges, federal prison.

      Most likely, Leavenworth. They're not white collar criminals, so no club fed for them.

  2. Andus McCoatover

    "third-degree money laundering"

    WTF is that? Is it like leaving a tenner in your pocket when the missus* puts the Bendix on? Or is it like a third-degree burn? Smarts a bit, but once I stop crying, goes away?

    *Yeah, sexist I know...See icon.

    1. kevin king

      Re: "third-degree money laundering"

      don't worry it could be worse it could be fourth degree

      1. Wzrd1

        Re: "third-degree money laundering"

        It's interesting that state charges were filed, as it was a federal crime as well.

        Of course, both federal and state charges could easily be filed for the ringleaders. RICO statute, computer crimes act, etc.

        Naw, they didn't rip off a corporation or wealthy person, so they'll get the minimal treatment. Had they ripped of a large corporation or one of the top 5%, they'd get the deluxe treatment of state and federal charges, with sentences applied consecutively.

  3. Stephen 2

    ATM Limit

    I had to beg and plead to have Natwest increase my daily ATM limit to 500 pounds. How did these guys withdraw so much? Is there no limit on ATM transactions in the US?

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: ATM Limit

      Beats me, the usual max I've seen in the US has been $600 daily maximum, anything over requires special dispensation of the money pope.

      $10k is totally out. However, transfers have a different limit, with some institutions having no limitation for some accounts. But, one isn't transferring funds into an account that is not one's own at an ATM.

  4. wyatt

    These guys are getting very clever! Only 1 visit to the card point needed, the rest collected via blue tooth.. next a fake keyboard so that even if you shield your PIN on entry, they've got it. Banks are covered as it's a chip and pin transaction so you must have divulged your PIN to someone one in their eyes..

    I wonder what the next card protection method will be?

    1. This Side Up

      The skimmer could well have included a fake keypad overlay.

      However if they used bluetooth they must have had a receiver nearby, such as a concealed mobile phone programmed to text the information, or store it until the device was retrieved.

      1. Stephen 2

        I'd imagine it would be stored for later retrieval. They could gas up like a regular customer, downloading the data while they're parked right next to the device. Or if the signal permits, download from inside the store while 'buying a drink'

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Banks are covered as it's a chip and pin transaction

      Not in the US. Gas station pumps ask for your postcode, which they presumably compare to the billing address, but I've never seen one that takes the card PIN, chip & PN is still very rare. That's why skimming is still a useful attack, all they need is the card number. No-one in the US ever checks card signatures or names, so fake cards are easy to use.

      1. Andus McCoatover

        No-one in the US ever checks card signatures or names, so fake cards are easy to use

        Not just US!

        A few years ago, I went to fill up her car, get some tobacco, etc., and only much later (after a few more transactions) did I realise I'd signed her card. ? Do I look like Anne Elk? - ok, don't answer....

      2. Don Jefe

        Most gas pumps here in the US ask for zip if it's a credit card and PIN if it's a debit card, GSA (Federal government) card or fleet card.

        As you say, nobody ever checks cards or asks for ID. Going inside the gas station and paying for your fuel and 25 cases of beer and some snacks is almost guaranteed to work. Hell, unless the store is robbed within 24 hours of your transaction even the video of your transaction will have been overwritten by the time anybody realizes there's a problem.

        Several years ago the GSA was renegotiating the national price of fuel for the Federal fleet and they sent staff out to hundreds of gas stations with ID showing the staff as known criminals and celebrities and cards belonging to Smoky D Bear.

        The GSA underwrites their own purchases so there is nobody for them to move fraudulent charges to, they have to eat them. The acceptance rate was stunningly high everywhere. Almost nobody even looked at the ID's or cards and in several instances station employees asked for ID. But even holding both the ID and the card it was a trained behavior for show. They weren't actually comparing them.

        The GSA was able to use their findings to negotiate a new contract price that was less than the norm of inflation +(lots of variables). I forget the actual savings figures, but it was many, many millions of dollars over the life of the contract.

  5. Graham 24

    Oh dear...

    Yes, it's a rainy, miserable Thursday and I'm feeling *very* pedantic, but:

    "PIN numbers"


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh dear...

      Yes... It's redundant acronym syndrome also known as RAS Syndrome.

  6. Crisp

    So these guys are getting done for laundering $2 million...

    Yet HSBC launder $881 million and get let off with no criminal charges.

    They obviously didn't launder enough!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So these guys are getting done for laundering $2 million...

      I believe the threshold for "disgusting criminal" and "Excellent business type chappie" is US$100m.

  7. Tom 13


    The attorney's office said that the four ringleaders in the operation will each face a catalog of 408 felony counts ranging from money laundering and grand larceny to possession of forged devices and forgery instruments.

    Meanwhile, the nine people who acted as money mules in the operation will each be hit with two felony counts of third-degree money laundering.

    And the sad part is, even if convicted of all charges, at most they'll serve a couple of years.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Hmmm....

      Maybe they'll get a little more time. Structuring financial transactions for the purpose of avoiding detection by authorities is a really high penalty crime, even before conspiracy to do so is tacked on.

      But you're probably right. By the time they've all rolled over on each other the only one who does any serious time will be the guy with advanced brain cancer who only had a few months to live anyway.

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