A plan to steal cash from unsuspecting Winnipeg bank customers was foiled by an alert citizen who sensed something was amiss.
Now Manitoba justice officials are seeking a two-year jail term for one of the men behind the botched scam.
Hristo Nedelchev Doychev, 36, pleaded guilty today to several charges including mischief and possession of an instrument for use in forging credit cards. Police arrested Doychev and a co-accused in 2006 thanks to a keen-eyed woman, court was told.
The two accused, who are residents of Toronto, had rigged a Henderson Highway bank machine with a tiny camera to steal debit card information. The woman then caught them attaching a portable card reader, also known as a "skimmer", to the ATM and a pin-hole camera just above it. She called police and officers soon spotted the suspects sitting in a rental vehicle outside the bank.
"They were waiting in the parking lot for people to use that particular ATM," said Crown attorney Sheila Leinburd. "It’s clear the accused came to Winnipeg to commit this crime."
The six-year-old case has dragged through the courts as Doychev switched lawyers and the co-accused, Georgi Ivanov Georgiev, 45, skipped bail and went missing. Georgiev has still not been located and a warrant remains for his arrest.
The Crown says Doychev should spend the next two years behind bars to send a message this type of crime will bring consequences. She said many of these types of scams aren’t immediately detected and don’t result in arrests.
"This is an emerging, costly and very serious offence," said Leinburd.
Defence lawyer Danny Gunn said his client should be given a conditional sentence which allows him to remain free in the community. He said Doychev has no prior criminal record, is married with two young children and has stayed out of trouble since his arrest. At the time of the incident, Doychev was desperate for cash and was recruited by Georgiev to participate in the fraud to make some quick, easy cash.
"I would like to apologize. Since then I have changed my life completely," Doychev told court today. He came to Canada from Bulgaria in 2002 and has been a permanent resident since 2004.
The sentencing judge will give her decision on Friday afternoon.