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Four Venezuelan nationals arrested in Sandy ATM ‘jackpotting’ scheme

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Posted at 2:24 PM, Feb 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-27 17:01:06-05

SALT LAKE CITY – Five men face charges after authorities say they hacked an ATM machine and collected an undisclosed amount of cash.

According to court documents filed in the United States Court District of Utah,  Joao Silva Robertson,  Josshua Perez Rivas,  Starlin Garcia Caraballo, Pedro Rivero Velazquez, and Luis Mendez Mata accessed a protected computer within an ATM at a Deseret First Credit Union on Feb. 25 in Sandy.  Each suspect listed was said to be a Venezuelan national.

Authorities said that the suspects attempted to conduct a “jackpotting” breach of ATM’s, where the machines are hacked, and security systems are bypassed allowing suspects to withdraw large amounts of cash without authorization.

Court documents said that Rivas, Caraballo, Velazquez, and Mata were all seen arriving at Salt Lake City International Airport on Feb. 23, where they entered a “variety of rental cars.”

Law enforcement agencies began surveillance of the vehicles and their occupants from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25. “During this period, we observed the Defendants engage in multiple maneuvers that appeared calculated to counter surveillance, such as exiting a highway, conducting a U-turn, and resuming the original route,” the court document said.

Officials conducting surveillance said that they saw the rented vehicles converge at Liberty Park on Feb. 25, where a meeting appeared to take place.

After the meeting, the suspects got back in their vehicles and reportedly visited several ATM and bank locations near the Old Mill area of Cottonwood Heights.

“An individual exited the vehicle rented by [Pedro Rivero Velazquez] and was observed approaching the Zion’s Bank ATM. Another individual was observed exiting one of the other vehicles and approaching the nearby Mountain America Credit Union ATM on foot,” the document stated. “Zion’s Bank subsequently called to report an attempted breach of their ATM at that location.”

After leaving these ATM locations, law enforcement officials said they witnessed the car Velazquez had rented at the Deseret First Credit Union in Sandy. When agents approached the vehicle, they saw that the ATM Velazquez had pulled up to displayed a screen indicating the machine had been breached. Authorities saw that the ATM was dispensing cash.

After searching Velazquez’s vehicle, agents said they found electronic equipment and a bag full of cash. Velazquez was subsequently put under arrest.

Authorities found each defendant near the ATM in the bank parking lot, as well as near the bank in what appeared to be a countersurveillance position.

Mata was seen monitoring the progress of the theft from a distance and was not taken into custody by agents. The four other suspects were arrested, court documents stated.