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Theft ring accused in fake ATM card scam in Chicago area

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - An international theft ring used stolen bank account information to create fake ATM cards and withdraw money from cash machines in Chicago and the surrounding area, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Seventeen people were accused of stealing about $200,000 from ATMs and another $50,000 by laundering the money between May 2011 and September 2012, according to a 29-count indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago said in a statement.

The indictment named 15 people in the United States and two men in Bulgaria, Radoslav Pavlov, 36 and Mihail Petrov, 41.

Pavlov and Petrov were accused of stealing bank information and personal identification numbers from unsuspecting account holders and sharing that information with several people in the Chicago area, according to prosecutors.

The information was encoded on magnetic strips of blank or recycled bank cards that were then used to withdraw money from area ATMs, prosecutors said.

The withdrawn cash was laundered through BG Center Rodina, a business that offers money wire services in the suburb of Norridge, according to authorities.

Among those arrested in the scheme was BG Center's owner, Emil Gospodinov, 44, of Chicago, who was charged with four money laundering counts and a count of money laundering conspiracy.

Another man, Gheorgui Martov, 39, of Schiller Park, a Chicago suburb, was charged with 22 counts of wire fraud, four counts of money laundering and a count of money laundering conspiracy. Martov and his wife, Temenuga Koleva, 37, also were charged with obstruction of justice for destroying computer files and internet browsing history, authorities said.

Altogether, the FBI arrested 13 people in and around Chicago and the two men were taken into custody in Bulgaria on Tuesday. One defendant was already in state custody while another defendant remains a fugitive, prosecutors said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg)

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