Five teenagers from California remained at the Lancaster County youth detention center Monday after police arrested them Friday in a suspected ATM fraud operation.
A Pinnacle Bank customer experiencing problems at an ATM tipped bank staff to the alleged skimming operation, authorities said Monday.
Bank staff checked on the problem and ultimately found cameras and so-called skimming devices on ATMs at 14th and N streets, 27th Street and Folkways Boulevard and 27th Street and Pine Lake Road, according to court documents.
ATM skimming devices surreptitiously capture bank card numbers and PIN information, allowing forgers to create new cards and steal money from the account holders, Lincoln Police Chief Jim Peschong said.
Bank officials removed the devices immediately on Friday, said Curt Denker, Pinnacle Bank's Lincoln market president. No account information was compromised.
Police staked out the three ATM locations, believing the culprits would return to remove the skimming devices, court documents said.
One investigator saw a Jeep Cherokee pull up to the ATM at 27th and Folkways and quickly drive off without using the machine.
The driver appeared to be the same person seen on surveillance video planting the devices earlier that morning, according to court documents.
The Jeep continued on to the other locations and left quickly, police said.
An officer ultimately pulled over the driver, a 16-year-old boy from Anaheim, California.
They arrested him and a 16-year-old passenger, a boy from San Francisco, and found a soldering iron, double-sided tape, memory cards and other items believed to have been used in the skimming operation, police said.
Three other teenagers were located after a cellphone seized by officers received phone calls and text messages from someone near the 27th and Folkways ATM, court records show.
Investigators arrested a 14-year-old boy, a 15-year-old boy and a 13-or 14-year-old girl suspected to have also been involved. They were taken to Lancaster County Youth Services Center.
The Journal Star is not naming the teenagers, who are scheduled to appear in Lancaster County Juvenile Court Tuesday.
So far they have provided little to no information to police, Peschong said.
Investigators suspect the five might be tied to a national criminal enterprise comprised mainly of Romanian citizens who came to the U.S. to take part, Peschong said.
"But we haven’t been able to make that tie just yet,” the chief said. Lincoln Police have had trouble finding Romanian interpreters.
Lincoln Police contacted the U.S. Secret Service, which investigates financial security along with its other duties.
Reports Lincoln investigators received suggest the five teenagers arrested may likely be a part of the network, which has hit ATMs in 17 states and gotten away with tens of thousands of dollars, according to court documents.
These enterprises often rely on juveniles, who if caught and convicted face lighter punishment, Peschong said.
"The reality to these situations (is) you get individuals that have been schooled and taught and trained," Peschong said.
"They didn’t just turn these kids loose.”
Pinnacle Bank regularly checks its ATMs, Denker said, "because we know this is a possibility."
Technology that could thwart skimming exists, but it isn't yet a standard component of the machines, Denker said.
Until then, Pinnacle Bank and others will rely on manually checking the machines.
"The good thing is we followed procedure, and LPD was quick to react and we got everything taken care of," Denker said.