Federal agents bust ATM theft ring, recover stolen goods in Williston

Four Quebec men were charged with ATM fraud for ripping off tens of thousands at Burlington area banks and stashing goods and cash at a Williston storage unit.

Federal agents executed a search warrant on a storage unit in Williston on Oct. 21, where they recovered approximately $33,000 in cash, a laptop computer, a card-reading device and approximately 378 gift cards with markings indicating that they contained bank account information on them. The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont said the men were arrested Oct. 24 following an investigation into their involvement in a fraud scheme in which the men received cash advances on access devices (such as an ATM) using compromised account information. Mathieu Baaklini, 21, of Laval, Quebec; Safwan Bensalma, 21, of Laval, Quebec; Brandon Lo, 24, of Laval, Quebec; and Nicolau Manfredi, 21, of Montreal were charged with conspiracy to use access devices fraudulently resulting in the receipt of more than $1,000 in cash.

The men appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy in Burlington on Oct. 25 for an initial appearance. If convicted, the men face a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

The scheme was pulled off between March and October of this year and involved the four men traveling from Quebec to Burlington, where they used NBT Bank automatic teller machines in Burlington and Essex to obtain cash advances on cards using stolen account information from Canadian account holders.

ATM transaction records and bank surveillance video shows that on May 24, approximately $8,800 in cash advances were withdrawn using suspected fraudulent credit cards. Records further show that on May 25, one of the charged conspirators made $11,000 in wire transfers from Chittenden and Franklin counties to locations in Quebec. Transaction records and bank surveillance video further showed that about 500 suspected cash advances on Canadian and European credit and debit cards were made between Aug. 22 and Aug. 25 at NBT Bank. The advances incurred approximately $54,000 in suspected fraud activity. The men were arrested by Department of Homeland Security agents at the Highgate Springs Port of Entry as they attempted to enter the United States.

Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are conducting the investigation into this matter.