Brazilian man put skimmers on ATMs in Ocean Springs, officials say

Eric Vitale, fraud investigation specialist with the San Luis Obispo Police Department, demonstrates how to spot a card skimmer on an ATM, gas pump or other card reader. He also offers advice for keeping your PIN and card information safe. By David Middlecamp

 

GULFPORT -- A Brazilian man put card skimmers and cameras on ATMs at Keesler Federal Credit Union in Ocean Springs, officials say.

He and others placed the devices on ATMs in July 2017, but that was only the start, federal prosecutors say.

Ramos downloaded information on more than 15 bank accounts — account numbers, electronic serial numbers and personal identification numbers — federal officials said in a news release Tuesday.

Ramos, with help from others, used account information to get an unspecified amount of money and, days later, transferred money to two banks in Florida and to a resort, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Jere T. Miles said in the release.

Ramos also stole a person’s identity, they said.

A Florida traffic stop

While HSI was investigating Ramos, a Florida Highway Patrol officer arrested him in a traffic stop April 18 in Sumpter County in Bushnell, Florida. Ramos and his passenger, Sulivan Candido De Oliveira, were in a rental car heading to Atlanta.

The Highway Patrol car has “a covert internal camera” that video and audio-recorded Ramos and Oliveira’s reactions and statements while officers searched the rental car, a Secret Service agent wrote in a criminal complaint. His affidavit was filed in federal court in Ocala, Florida.

Both men are in the U.S. without proper documentation, the agent wrote.

Items found in the car included numerous ATM card skimmers and micro SD card pin-hole cameras — disguised as legitimate parts of an ATM, the affidavit said.

Officers reported finding two laptop computers, three cellphones and devices commonly associated with credit card fraud and identity theft:

  • USB-connected credit card reader/encoder.

  • USB thumb drive.

  • USB Micro SD card reader.

  • USB cables for the skimming devices.

  • 220-volt charging device for batteries in the skimming devices.

  • Gloves, a soldering iron, two-sided tape, a glue gun, paint and sanding paper.

 

Ramos and Oliveira, also from Brazil, began speaking to each other in Portuguese during the search.

The Secret Service agent who reviewed the recordings is fluent in Portuguese, his affidavit said.

Ramos told Oliveira the “mess” was in the console, and they told each other they were in a rental car and didn’t know what was “in there,” the agent said.

Ramos reportedly began cursing loudly in Portugese when a state trooper found their backpack. Oliveira said to Ramos, “tell them that you do maintenance work.”

The officer arrested both of them on state charges of ATM/credit card fraud.

Meanwhile, a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Mississippi had indicted Ramos and a co-defendant on related charges on May 2. A few days later, an HSI agent from Gulfport notified Florida officials of an active federal warrant for Ramos.

ATM video footage in and around the Gulfport metropolitan area shows Ramos and another person placing skimmers on bank ATMs, a court paper in Florida says. ATM video footage also showed Ramos withdrawing money using stolen account numbers retrieved by skimmers.

Ramos was sent to Gulfport in June for arraignment in federal court.

He was ordered held with no bond. His family lives in Brazil, and he was considered a flight risk, a detention order shows.

Over 250 access devices

On July 9, Secret Service agents obtained warrants for the devices found in Florida. Forensic examiners found more than 250 unauthorized access devices — credit/debit card account numbers and pin numbers to those accounts, on the two laptops, the affidavit filed in Florida says.

Analysts also found a number of videos on thumb drives, with images showing people putting their pin numbers on ATM pin pads, the document said.

According to the indictment filed in Gulfport, Ramos and others began using skimmer devices in Jackson County from July 12, 2017 through July 25, 2017. One of his victims was identified in the indictment by initials only, A.S.

A co-defendant, Lucas Pimenta Diogo Das Gracas, is accused of using a skimmer device in Harrison County on Oct. 4, 2017, and in Harrison and Jackson counties from Oct. 14, 2017 through Oct. 15, 2017.

Gracas also is accused of having 15 or more counterfeit debit cards in Forrest County on Oct. 18, 2017, and using the personal information of a victim identified as K.B.

Ramos was set for trial Sept. 10, court records show. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count each of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden set sentencing for 9 a.m. Dec. 3.

Access device fraud carries maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The crime involves credit or debit cards, ATM cards and other types of access devices used to withdraw or transfer money.

Aggravated identity theft has a mandatory prison term of two years. If Ramos receives a prison sentence for the identity theft, it must be served in addition to any time he receives for access device fraud. The charge means any type of identity theft that occurs during or related to other federal crimes.

Ramos could be ordered to make restitution, or could be automatically removed from the U.S., his plea agreement shows.

Federal agents found Gracas in federal custody in Maryland, where he has a pending indictment and trial date in January 2019, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Jones wrote in a court filing in Gulfport. She has asked that Gracas’ trial date be continued.

The case in Gulfport was investigated by HSI, which operates under Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

 

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