The leader of an ATM “skimming” ring with ties to a Romanian organized crime ring pleaded guilty today in federal court in Seattle to bank fraud, conspiracy, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Ismail Sali, 53, of Kirkland, entered the plea just days before his trial was to begin before U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik.
Sali oversaw a ring of fellow Romanians – some in the country illegally — that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars by using high-tech devices to skim credit card information and secretly capture bank customers’ personal identification numbers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Much of that money went overseas to Romania, prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said a Secret Service investigation showed that Sali had been involved in credit-card skimming in the Seattle area since 2007.
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A plea agreement states that the federal government will recommend a prison sentence of no longer than eight years, while Sali’s lawyers will be able to ask for a sentence of no fewer than six years. Federal judges are not bound by such agreements, but often follow the recommendations.
Sali has also agreed to pay $357,256 in restitution, surrender $10,000 in cash seized when he was arrested, and forfeit three vehicles, computer equipment and three firearms.
Sentencing is set for June 15.