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By Elesha George

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A man who travelled to Antigua from Santo Domingo and used gift cards to allegedly swindle EC$9,000 from ECAB automated machines (ATMs) was denied bail on Friday.

The man and two other people are accused of using gift cards laced with magnetic strips to access people’s accounts using ECAB ATM machines over a period of time.

He arrived on the island on November 2 along with two other men who are suspected of committing the same crime. However, the police have been unable to locate the other men.

The man, who is currently being detained at Her Majesty’s prison (HMP), was charged with forgery and three counts of fraudulent use of cards, after surveillance footage caught him withdrawing the funds. Upon arrest, the police found six fraudulent cards on his person.

In arguing for his release, the man’s lawyer, Wendel Robinson said that it was difficult for his client to cope with prison conditions. He also argued that his client could be in prison for at least one year before going to trial as he highlighted previous examples of such outcomes.

He told the judge that there were sufficient security measures in place to monitor his client if he were to be granted bail.

However, Robinson’s arguments could not convince High Court Judge, Justice Iain Morley, that the man would not present a flight risk. The judge said it was evident that the accused has connections that could help him evade the authorities.

The scam that the accused is alleged to have committed involves a person using gift cards with magnetic strips to record and encode stolen bank data.

Justice Morley explained that older ATMs that do not have up-to-date security features mistake the information on the gift card as valid debit or credit cards and innocuously give access to someone else’s account information.

There is however a limit on withdrawals, and so the scammer would need to perform several transactions to be able to get a significant amount of cash.

The judge also explained that fraudsters often obtain account information by lifting it off the internet.

Justice Morley noted a pattern in this sort of crime in Antigua in recent times, where he said outsiders would come to the country for the sole purpose of defrauding the ATM.

“Quite a lot of it is going on in Antigua,” he said.

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