Headline — 23 January 2019 — by Courtney Menzies and Roy Davis (freelance reporter)
3 remanded for suspected ATM card scam

The suspects, from Colombia, Peru and Chile, were caught with paraphernalia necessary to execute the scam

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 21, 2019– Three men, all of them foreigners, were charged with two counts of preparation to commit a crime when they appeared today before Magistrate Patricia Arana. They are Edgar Vargas, 36, a Colombian national; Luis Marroquin, 24, a Peruvian national; and Juan Espinosa, 35, a native of Chile.

When asked to state their occupation, all three classified themselves as businessmen.

Magistrate Arana did not take a plea from them because the offences will be tried on indictment. The prosecutor objected to the granting of bail to the men on the ground that the men are flight risks and if they were granted bail, they would not return to court.

Magistrate Arana agreed and she denied them bail and remanded them until March 27. They were represented in court by attorney Hurl Hamilton.

The allegation against the men is that on January 16 and January 17, 2019, at Scotia Bank in Dangriga, the men prepared to commit a crime by scanning bank customers’ ATM cards with the intention to draw monies from those cards.

The process involves using skimmers to put an identical card reader over the original card slot machine when a customer inserts his or her ATM card. The skimmer then scans and stores the customer’s information.

Also, the skimmer places a tiny hidden camera over the machine to get a clear view of the keypad as the customer enters his or her pin number.

Police reported that they intercepted two vehicles with Mexican license plates. They told police they had rented the cars in Cancun, but that has yet to be verified.

When they searched the men, however,  they were found with a credit card skimmer and a number of other paraphernalia related to the skimmer, including credit cards and blank credit cards, as well as parts of ATM machines.

As a result, Marroquin, Vargas and Espinosa were arrested and charged.

According to police, they were alerted to the presence of the two vehicles because they have been looking into this issue of ATM scams for some time now and have been following up on information they had received.

Police do not know much about the individuals at this time, but are working to get more information on the men, including whether they are wanted in any other countries for similar crimes. Police have contacted Interpol, but have yet to get a response.

They do know, however, that the men are in Belize legally. Police said that one of the men had made several trips to Belize, while another had just arrived on January 10.

Police are unsure of whether the men were able to get any money from the ATM machines.

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Deshawn Swasey

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