Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beneyam Asrat G-Sellassie arrested for ATM skimming has crime-ring ties


Investigators searched suspect's Seattle residence

A Seattle man has been charged with four counts of identity theft after police say he used information skimmed from Chase bank ATM machines, and prosecutors say the suspect has ties to organized crime rings operating in Washington and other states.

Beneyam Asrat G-Sellassie, 21, is being held on $250,000 bail after previously posting $50,000 bond earlier this month. His arraignment, where he's expected to enter a plea, is scheduled Wednesday.
G-Sellassie, who is unemployed, "attempted to make 66 transactions with the counterfeit credit cards that he made from information 'skimmed' from the victims," Senior Deputy Prosecutor Melinda J. Young wrote in charging documents. "He was found with 22 different victims' financial information stored onto counterfeit cards."
Prosecutors say more counts are expected as they search for additional victims, and the U.S. Attorney's Office may take over prosecution of the case.
"Based on police intelligence that cannot be revealed at this time, the defendant has clear connections to the organized crime rings operating in this state, in other states, and in other countries that commit this type of skimming crime."
On June 3, Chase fraud investigators identified three Las Vegas locations that had ATM skimming devices. Review of ATM videos depicts a man in the three cases matching G-Sellassie's description, police said.
Chase fraud monitoring staff identified 15 locations where skimmed information was used the Seattle area.
Police say on June 2, G-Sellassie was at the Chase bank at 2902 Alderwood Mall Parkway using skimmed car numbers for the Nevada bank locations.
Investigators also say , G-Sellassie was at four North Seattle banks June 4 attempting to make withdraws with skimmed information. The following day, investigators were alerted that skimmed information from cards in Las Vegas was being used at a Central District ATM, at 401 23rd Avenue.
Seattle police responded to the bank and arrested him. Investigators said he was shaking.
G-Sellassie made withdrawals from four separate Chase customer accounts for a total of $1,640, according to court documents. Jail records show he posted bail the following day, but booked again after investigators served a search warrant at his residence in the 10500 block of Stone Avenue North.
According to that search warrant, "the identified losses to Chase from G-Sellassie's ATM skimming activities are in excess of $135,000.00."
Prosecutors expect to find additional victims, but court documents indicate Chase investigators are aware of the incidents and monitoring accounts for fraud.
Spokeswoman Darcy Donahoe-Wilmot said the company does not typically comment on active law enforcement investigations.
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