A Brazilian national admitted on Monday to stealing $43,000 from unsuspecting bank customers in the Boston area during a single month last spring as part of an ATM skimming operation, federal prosecutors said.
Helisson Benazi de Souza, 38, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to charges of using counterfeit access devices (debit cards); one count of possessing 15 or more counterfeit access devices (debit cards); three counts of possessing device-making equipment (ATM skimming devices); one count of illegal transactions with an access device (other persons’ debit cards); and two counts of aggravated identity theft, according to authorities.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced on June 19.
“Benazi de Souza was part of an ATM skimming operation in which he stole the debit card information and personal identification numbers (PIN) of legitimate bank account holders when they used their debit cards at ATMs,” US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office said in a statement. “Skimming devices made to look like legitimate card access slots were used to record the account information on the magnetic stripes of the debit cards, while secret pinhole cameras recorded the cardholders entering their PINs on the keypads.”
Armed with the customers’ PIN numbers, Benazi de Souza got down to illicit business, using the information to withdraw “$43,000 from ATMs in the Metro Boston area in May 2017,” the statement said.
He was arrested in May 2017.
Investigators who tossed his car found thousands of dollars in cash, all in $20 bills, as well as more than 200 gift cards and hotel key cards containing small stickers, according to the release.
He confessed that the items contained evidence of his brazen crimes.
“Benazi de Souza admitted that the numbers written on the stickers were cardholders’ PINs,” the statement said.