By City News Service
A high-tech, law enforcement task force, involving federal, state and local agencies, have arrested two men for allegedly installing credit and debit card skimming devices at several banks in Sherman Oaks and Encino, officials announced today.
The two suspects, 32-year-old Geori Nikolov of North Hollywood and 36- year-old Dimitar Dimitrov of Santa Monica, were arrested on Sunday by members of the Southern California High-Tech Task Force (SCHTTF), which included sheriff's department personnel and agents from the United States Secret Service and FBI, sheriff's Sgt. Josh Mankini said.
The task force involves at least 15 different law enforcement agencies and the L.A. County District Attorney's office, but not the Los Angeles police.
Nikolov and Dimitrov were booked on multiple felony counts of theft and were each being held at L.A. County Jail on $70,000 bail. However, both men also have no-bail immigration holds placed on them, which will keep them in custody until the case goes to court or the holds are lifted, Mankini told City News Service.
The case began in September of 2012 when detectives working in a joint investigation with two banks -- Chase and Bank of the West -- became alerted to skimming devices, which are designed to steal credit and debit card information and PIN numbers, being installed at branches in Sherman Oaks and Encino, Mankini said.
That investigation finally led to Nikolov and Dimitrov. Five days ago, undercover officers pulled their car over on the Ventura Boulevard onramp to the San Diego (405) Freeway in Encino.
Both suspects were arrested and search warrants were served on their homes later that day, Mankini said. The two men were then booked into custody at the West Hollywood sheriff's station.
"They were installing the skimmers as overlays on the bank's ATMs," Mankini said.
SCHTTF was notified by the banks after their equipment and spotters found the skimmers, he said.
"They would attach the skimmers for a few hours and then go and retrieve them and the banking information they stole," Mankini said.
Mankini declined to say how much money the pair allegedly stole, how many customers were defrauded or if there were other banks involved, saying it remains an ongoing investigation.