Over €8,000 seized from criminal mastermind

A mastermind criminal who ran a global ATM bank card scamming operation from his house in Limerick has consented to the forfeiture of more than €8,000 in cash, found during a garda search at his home.

An application was made at Limerick District Court yesterday by Supt Frank O’Brien, Henry St Garda Station, for forfeiture of the money, seized in Feb 2011.

The man behind the elaborate illegal bank card enterprise, Vitalii Pascari, appeared in court yesterday.

He confirmed he was consenting to the application, made under the Police Property Act.

The court also ordered that a laptop seized at Pascari’s home be forfeited to the State.

Pascari’s neighbours never guessed that the clean-cut Moldovan was making false automated ATMs and cards for criminal gangs around the world.

Using online videos, Pascari taught himself how to manufacture dodgy ATMs.

The 34-year old had been pursued by police forces across Europe and America but it was not until gardaí raided his four-bed semi-detached home in Limerick that the sophistication of his skimming operation was uncovered.

At his sentencing hearing in the circuit court in February this year, Judge Caroll Moran said Pascari was clearly a “brilliant” man and it was a shame he chose to use his intelligence to pursue a life of crime.

Pascari was jailed for five years for the scam, which he told gardaí he had been running for a year.

He had been shipping false ATMs and ATM parts to clients in Greece, Italy, Hong Kong, South Africa, France, and the US.

He has since used his expertise to help gardaí in other fraud investigations.

The items recovered by gardaí at his house included five plastic ATM covers, four lap tops, 150 plastic gift cards from Debenhams, Dunnes Stores and TK Maxx, spray cans, copper sheets, battery packs, metal strips, mobile phones, cameras, and chip devices.

Gardaí also found a portable USB computer memory device containing 13 videos of unsuspecting members of the public typing in their PINs at ATMs.

Pascari pleaded guilty at Limerick Circuit Court to eight counts of theft and fraud relating to the alleged manufacturing and distribution of ATM skimming devices.

“There was an amazing level of sophistication in the operation and the accused showed remarkable ability,” said Judge Moran.

“His ability in these matters is very impressive.”

Judge Moran said the crime “went to the heart of the system of credit card banking” and undermined a system of banking now universally used in the developed world.

“It completely tends to undermine the system of dealing in money in the Western world.”

Pascari ordered the parts directly from ATM companies to assemble custom-made ATMs for crime gangs.

At the time of his arrest he was unemployed but had about €30,000 in his bank account, the court heard.

Pascari created bank cards for his criminal clients by electronically encoding personal bank details of members of the public onto the magnetic strips located at the back of gift cards.

He was caught when a box, addressed to the accused and labelled “anti-skimming devices”, was spotted at a DHL depot by custom and excise officers attached to the Revenue Commissioners.

Pascari, who is married with two young children, had no previous convictions prior to his arrest last year.


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