In just one day, 18 Santander Bank branches in Boston, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey were hit by scammers.
On May 23, Santander and the Secret Service struck back.
Using his real-time link to security cameras, Santander security official Christopher Alonso spotted a familiar face using the ATM at the bank’s Seekonk branch and alerted the Secret Service. Seekonk police then sent over a cruiser and arrested Dean Emmanuel Colin.
Colin, 26, a Florida resident, allegedly is part of a loosely organized group of scammers using what the authorities call “cashout” scams to steal money. In this case, nearly $1 million was drained from American Express accounts by using Santander ATMs in just six days this month, according to federal court papers.
“No Santander customers were affected by this fraudulent activity, and there was no security breach or issue with any of our ATMs,” the bank said in a statement Thursday night. “Our security staff worked proactively with law enforcement to help stop the alleged criminal activity.”
Colin had nine ATM cards on him when Seekonk police took him into custody. He allegedly told police he had arrived at the Central Avenue ATM via Uber — but when police activated the car key they found in his pocket, lights flashed on a Volkswagen behind a dumpster.
With the help of a search warrant issued by a state judge, law enforcement went to a Foxborough motel where Colin was staying, officials allege in court papers filed in US District Court in Providence.
Inside, they found two more cards and clothing Colin allegedly wore May 22 when he used the ATM at a Santander bank on Post Road in Warwick, R.I. He allegedly drained the ATM of $35,000 in cash that day.
Investigators also found something else. .
“In addition, $65,920 U.S. currency was in the hotel room,” wrote Mark Comorosky, a Secret Service special agent. “All of the denominations were $50 bills, except one $20 bill.”
Comorosky wrote that he used a card reader and examined the 11 ATM cards Colin allegedly had in his possession. Four had account numbers encoded on the magnetic bar that did not match numbers on the cards; instead, the cards contained data from American Express accounts, he wrote. Five had account numbers that did not match the numbers on the card. The final two did not have account numbers on the stripe.
The authorities allege that in the VW they discovered a card reader capable of encoding bank cards, rubber bands for wrapping cash, and an airline ticket from Miami to Boston dated May 22.
Colin, according to Comorosky’s affidavit, has been linked to the draining of cash from 29 American Express Platinum accounts, although the dollar amount was not disclosed.
The scammers obtain valid account numbers stolen by identify thieves through security breaches at large companies then sell that information to a second party, who illegally accesses victims’ bank accounts.
“A cashout scheme is a criminal conspiracy whereby individuals utilize stolen or otherwise compromised bank and or credit card company account numbers encoded on access devices such as ATM cards, credit cards, gift cards, and hotel keys, to withdraw large sums of currency from ATM machines,’’ Comorosky wrote.
“Ultimately, the purchasers of the stolen financial information use the account numbers to encode plastic cards with magnetic stripes, such as gift cards, counterfeit credit or debit cards, and hotel key cards, which they then use to withdraw currency from ATM machines.”
Colin, who is represented by a federal public defender, was ordered held without bail pending a June 11 detention hearing.