Chase Bank Teller Arrested For ATM Fraud

Manuel Vargas is accused of using counterfeit debit cards to steal money from people's bank accounts on Miami Beach and nearby Sunny Isles.


MIAMI BEACH, FL — A Chase Bank teller was arrested on Wednesday and charged with stealing money from people's bank accounts through a sophisticated scheme involving a so-called card skimmer and counterfeit debit cards. Manuel Vargas is facing seven counts of credit card forgery and seven counts of personal identification fraud following his arrest by Miami Beach police. The 19-year-old allegedly stole $6,882 from seven bank accounts in Miami Beach and nearby Sunny Isles Beach with a friend in July.

All of the victims were account holders at City National Bank. The money was withdrawn between Saturday, July 14 and Monday, July 16.

"The defendant stated both he and a friend withdrew cash at ATM machines on Miami Beach and Sunny Isles," according to arrest documents. "The defendant stated he only kept but a small sum of the withdrawn funds." (For more local news from Florida, click here to sign up for real-time news alerts and newsletters from Miami Beach Patch, and click here to find your local Florida Patch. If you have an iPhone, click here to get the free Patch iPhone app.)

Ernesto Rodriguez of the Miami Beach Police Department said on Wednesday that police are still searching for two more suspects.

In August, Miami Beach police released video of several fraudulent transactions in the hope that someone would come forward with information. It was not clear what led to Vargas' arrest

Vargas of the 1800 block of NE 173rd Street in North Miami Beach allegedly told police that his friend supplied him with more than 10 debit cards and pin numbers.

Watch surveillance video of a fraudulent ATM transaction in South Beach:


Police believe the account information was stolen using a so-called card skimming device that captured personal data during legitimate debit card transactions.

"Detectives discovered the common point of initial transaction was at an ATM located within Mt. Sinai Hospital," Rodriguez said in August when police asked for the public's help in solving the case. "Our team has been working closely with Mt. Sinai and City National Bank, the ATM owner. Since the start of our investigation, we have identified seven victims who had their information compromised. Some victims have contacted MBPD while others contacted Mt. Sinai and the bank directly."

Miami Beach police also released a photo of the device discovered on an ATM at Mount Sinai Medical Center. There have been no shortage of such skimmer incidents throughout Florida and elsewhere. Recently, authorities in Georgia and North Carolina also reported skimming thefts involving ATM machines.

How to Protect Your ATM Card

  • Use secure ATM machines under video surveillance or inside a bank lobby. They're less likely to be tampered with.

  • Pay careful attention to what the card reader and keypad normally look like on the ATMs you use most frequently.

  • Don't use an ATM if the card reader appears to be added on, fits poorly or is loose. Some thieves place a fake box over the card slot that reads and records account and PIN numbers.

  • Inspect the machine for items that were installed over or around the PIN pad of the ATM. Look for an attachment on the ATM that contains a small hole that is pointed in the direction of the PIN pad.

  • Lightly tug the area of the card slot. Most skimming devices are attached with double-sided tape for quick removal by the crooks.

  • Cover the keypad with your other hand while typing your PIN. This is the best way to ensure that your PIN number is not recorded.

  • If the keypad backlight is off, that's another warning sign that a skimming device could be installed, according to

  • Also, if the chip reader is deeper than normal, beware.


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