Bulgarian national sentenced for Martha’s Vineyard ATM scam

Oak Bluffs police assistance led to Georgi Kanev being extradited from Europe in 2019. He was sentenced Wednesday.

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Georgi Kanev, pictured here at the MV Bank’s Main Street Edgartown ATM in 2013, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison in connection to a ATM card skimming scam.

Georgi Kanev, a 33-year-old Bulgarian national, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison Wednesday in connection with a 2013 ATM card skimming scam that resulted in the illegal withdrawal of hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting Martha’s Vineyard Bank (formerly Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank) customers.

The sentence was doled out by U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin. In addition to 30 months in prison, Kanev was ordered to pay restitution, which will be determined at a later date.

Kanev pleaded guilty on March 16 to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to Kanev’s plea agreement, the total amount of money Kanev derived from the scam was $199,624.29, from over 160 customer accounts.

Speaking to The Times by phone Thursday, Oak Bluffs Police Lt. Tim Williamson said he did extensive work on the Kanev case, which led to Kanev and alleged co-conspirator Anatoli Mitrev, who is still facing trial, both being arrested in Europe and extradited to the U.S.

The International Criminal Police Organization, known as Interpol, arrested Kanev in Austria on July 18, 2019. Mitrev was arrested in Sofia, Bulgaria, on August 20, 2020, on an Interpol Red Notice. Red Notices are requests to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.

“They ended up getting warrants from my police report,” Williamson said. “They ended up extracting them back. It was such a strong case, Kanev ended up taking a plea.”

Williamson said all the bank customers were made whole through insurance.

In a May 2 letter to Judge Sorokin, Kanev expressed remorse for “the poor choices that led [him] to this point in my life” and wrote that being in jail opened his eyes that “little is gained in the long run by taking shortcuts in life.”

“I made poor decisions that cost me allot [sic] more than just my freedom, but more significantly, hurt people I loved and cared for the most. I am truly sorry for my actions not just because I am in prison, but because for all the damage did to everyone else involved,” Kanev wrote in part. “I ended up causing allot [sic] problems because of my immature attitude. Even though I was much younger when this crime occurred, I take full responsibility for my unlawful behavior.”

Federal documents also include eight letters of support from Kanev’s friends that reference Kanev’s upright and loyal character. One letter states Kanev fell into “bad company” on Martha’s Vineyard.

According to an indictment that was filed in July 2018, the crime took place over the course of four weeks in July and August of 2013, when Kanev and Mitrev installed ATM card skimmers, keystroke devices, and cameras at MV Bank ATMs on Main Street in Edgartown and Oak Bluffs Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

The devices allowed the conspirators to obtain the magnetic strip information and PIN numbers from ATM customers. The stolen information was then used to counterfeit debit cards to withdraw funds from the compromised accounts at ATMs in New York City and Chicago in September 2013.

In a May 19 sentencing recommendation memo, acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Mendell wrote that while Kanev’s crime occurred eight years ago, his efforts were “nonetheless serious, callous, and calculated.” The memo recommended a 48-month sentence, 12 months of supervised release, a special assessment of $200, and restitution of at least $199,624.29.

“Kanev’s involvement in the ATM skimming operation ended not because he confronted a crisis of conscience; it ended because he left the United States, after stealing money that didn’t belong to him,” a sentencing memo from the U.S. attorney reads. “It will also serve as a general deterrent to others that contemplate the risk/benefit analysis of participating in similar operations.”

Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell and Frederick J. Regan, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office, made the announcement in a press release Wednesday. Assistance was also provided by the Edgartown Police Department and the Oak Bluffs Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mackenzie A. Queenin of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

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