SEATTLE – A leader of a Canadian group that skimmed ATM cards at Vancouver–area  Starbucks and Dirty Apron cafes, then created counterfeit cards used to withdraw as much as $400,000 from Seattle ATMs, was arrested here last week and charged with bank fraud.

The investigation began in December when BECU’s fraud investigator used video surveillance footage to identify a group of individuals performing so-called cash-out fraud at BECU ATMs in and around Seattle, according to court records. The investigator discovered that all of the BECU ATM withdrawals related to debit cards and accounts at VanCity CU in Vancouver, British Columbia.

On Feb. 5, the U.S. Secret Service was notified that the Royal Bank of Canada reported a mass cash-out attempt in progress at numerous ATMs in downtown Seattle. The Canadian bank provided real-time data of where the ATM withdrawals were taking place, which allowed JP Morgan Chase to provide a photograph and description of one suspect. The suspect was arrested later that day with 49 white plastic cards with no bank markings or printing, just a magnetic strip, as well as $1,620 cash freshly withdrawn from ATMs.  A search of the suspect’s car turned up another 169 cards and $6,340 in recently withdrawn ATM cash.  Another suspect arrested had 332 white plastic cards and $77,140 in ATM cash.

It turned out that the cards had been skimmed at various coffee shops in Vancouver, including several Starbucks and Dirty Aprons. The cards were used to make almost $400,000 in cash withdrawals at BECU and other ATMs.

One of the alleged leaders of the so-called Coffee Shop Gang, identified as Canadian Dennis Nguyen, was arrested this week in a parking lot of a Seattle Target store.  Nguyen admitted to being involved in the scheme but told authorities he is only a middle man who delivered the bags full of equipment, cash and blank cards.

Everyone who withdraws cash at BECU ATMs is recorded on videotape, which led to Nguyen’s arrest.

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