By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWO of three Romanians accused of hacking bank automated teller machines yesterday owned up to their involvement in the crimes, which a magistrate called “white collar crime at its worst.”
Dumitri Gabureac, 32, Adrian Lupu, 33, and Paul Florin, 31, who were previously arraigned over the September 6 hacking of two Royal Bank of Canada ATM machines, re-appeared before Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt to be re-arraigned on amended charges brought against them by the Attorney General’s Office.
Flourin pleaded guilty to two counts of unauthorised access to a computer while Lupu pleaded guilty to two counts of abetment to unauthorised access to a computer.
In addition to being sentenced to seven months in jail from yesterday’s date, they each were fined $15,000 and ordered to split the compensation for the $4,000 worth of damage they caused to the machines they hacked on that day.
“I want to send a clarion message to all would-be offenders that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated by the courts,” the chief magistrate said.
She added that failure to pay the specified amounts before the end of their sentence would result in an additional 18 months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services, formerly Her Majesty’s Prison.
Meanwhile, Gabureac, who was denied bail in the Supreme Court an hour after his arraignment, pleaded not guilty to the two abetment charges he faced. He returns for trial on January 7, 2015.
Around 11:15am on the day in question, the technical support manager of RBC alerted the Central Detective Unit to reports the bank had received from two of its technicians.
The technicians were servicing two ATMs at the Palmdale branch where they discovered what appeared to be card skimming devices and a hidden pin code camera attached to the ATMs.
A team of officers from CDU’s Business and Technology Unit arrived at the scene where they took statements from the technicians and were shown the skimming and camera devices.
Officers then reviewed the bank’s surveillance equipment and observed that on the same day, around 2:17am, Flourin and Lupu were seen pulling up to RBC Palmdale in a Nissan vehicle.
Though they put pieces of paper over the ATM cameras they were seen by other cameras in the bank tampering with the machines.
Acting on this information, CDU officers conducted a covert operation that led them to the vicinity of that branch the following day.
They observed three Caucasian males driving a light coloured Nissan believed to be the same car observed on the bank’s camera.
Officers pulled the vehicle to a stop before positively identifying the assailants they were looking for. They cautioned and arrested Flourin and Lupu and took them into custody.
The chief magistrate asked the accused if they agreed with the summary of facts read by prosecutor Ambrose Armbrister.
They both said they did.
Their lawyer, John Henry Bostwick I, noted that while sophisticated, their actions were wrong.
“They were unsuccessful in their pursuit and they’ve spent exactly two months in custody,” the lawyer said, adding that “to their credit, they have admitted, since I was retained, to the offences.”
“I am putting them in your merciful hands and hopefully there would be only a fine. If there were any damages, they are willing to pay for them,” he concluded.
Mr Armbrister said the pair caused $4,000 worth of damage to the ATM machines.
Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt gave both men the opportunity to address the court before she gave her judgment.
“I just want to say that I’m guilty and I’m sorry for what I did,” said Flourin, who pleaded for mercy.
Lupu echoed his sentiments.
However, the chief magistrate deferred her decision by three hours, indicating that she needed time to consider all of the circumstances in a case that she had never come across before in the courts.
At 4:30pm, the chief magistrate gave the two men her decision.
“I want to commend you two for your decision today, which was to take responsibility for your wrongdoing very early,” the magistrate began.
“The law says that when one pleads guilty at the earliest opportunity, you ought to be given a discount,” she said, adding that they also had the benefit of not having any priors in this jurisdiction.
“However, it would be wrong of me, if I did not say that this behaviour is unacceptable and reprehensible. It is beyond my contemplation that someone would even think of defrauding RBC of money. I shudder to think persons like you, in a clandestine way, would try to rob RBC and its customers.”
Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt commended the police for their swift action and noted that if “not for their investigation, this is a matter that would have gone undetected and who knows how much money would have mysteriously disappeared.”
“People work hard and put money in the bank with a view that it would be safe,” she said, adding that the court “does not countenance any tolerance for what you sought to do on the early morning of September 6.”
In noting that they faced up to five years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine, she conclude that their offence “is white collar crime at its worst.”
“The court is deeply moved that such criminality has touched our once tranquil Bahamas,” she said, adding that “we welcome visitors like yourselves here but certainly not when you come with the mind-set to commit crime.”