SALT LAKE CITY — Five Venezuelan nationals now face federal charges for allegedly using an ATM in Utah like a slot machine — a scheme known as "jackpotting."
A federal complaint was filed Monday charging Joao Silva Robertson, 28, Josshua Perez Rivas, 38, Starlin Garcia Caraballo, 39, Pedro Rivero Velazquez, 38, and Luis Mendez Mata, 42, with computer fraud and bank robbery.
The men installed hardware in a Sandy ATM that allowed them to withdraw cash without having any account information or passwords, according to U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber's office.
Investigators from the FBI, Secret Service and other federal and local agencies received information that four of the men were flying into Salt Lake City on Feb. 23 and meeting the fifth man, according to charging documents. Surveillance was set up and agents watched as the men got into separate rental vehicles.
For the next two days, investigators kept surveillance on the men.
"During this period, we observed the defendants engage in multiple maneuvers that appeared calculated to counter surveillance, such as exiting a highway, conducting a U-turn, and resuming the original route," charging documents state.
On Feb. 25, investigators observed all the men drive separately to Liberty Park and then "appeared to hold a meeting in the middle of the park," the charges state.
After the meeting, the men got back in their cars and drove to various ATMs, including a Zions Bank and Mountain America Credit Union in the Cottonwood Heights area. They "then circled back to Liberty Park, where the occupants exited and appeared to have another discussion. After this exchange, the individuals appeared to exchange some equipment or materials from one car to another," according to the charges.
After making more "evasive" manuevers, police say the men went back to the ATMs.
"Zions Bank subsequently called to report an attempted breach of their ATM at that location," the charges say.Comment on this story
The men then went to an ATM at Deseret First Credit Union, 9325 Village Shop Drive. That's when FBI agents approached the men "and found the ATM dispensing cash" in a scheme known as "jackpotting."
"In this (manner), the ATM can be directed to simply empty out all of its cash," according to the charges.
Investigators rounded up four of the men at the bank and nearby where some were acting as lookouts, the charges state.
Agents were still looking for Mata as of Wednesday.