Card skimmer jailed after helping crime syndicate net $500k
A SPRINGFIELD Lakes man will spend the best part of the next five years behind bars for his role in a sophisticated card-skimming operation that netted an international crime syndicate in Romania more than $553,000 in illegal cash.
Paul Owen Tovt, 38, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in the Brisbane District Court to one count of dealing in the proceeds of crime over a six week period between February and April, 2012 - just nine weeks after being released from jail on unrelated matters.
Crown Prosecutor Anna Cunningham told the court Tovt recruited vulnerable people in Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane to withdraw cash from ATMs across south-east Queensland using cards that had been loaded up with stolen money.
She said Tovt, along with a co-accused, obtained stolen Dutch bank account details and PIN numbers from the European-based crime syndicate and then scanned those details onto the magnetic strips of further stolen cards to access the cash.
"They used those people to withdraw money from ATMs using the cashed-up cards before making them send the money overseas via Western Union transfers," she said.
"The offending involved 115 individual transactions over a 32-day period.
"Those people, who were told they were doing nothing illegal, were paid between $50 and $100.
"The crime syndicate paid Tovt $300 for each successful transaction."
Ms Cunningham said the operation was extremely lucrative for Tovt, his co-accused and the Romanian crime syndicate.
She said at the time of offending Tovt was on a suspended sentence stemming from a 2011 dishonesty offence.
"Tovt knew what he was doing was highly illegal and the money being withdrawn from ATMs were the proceeds of crime," she said.
"What makes matters worse is that he used people who were vulnerable and had mental health issues to do the dirty work for him.
"He only stopped because his co-accused was caught and arrested."
Defence barrister James Benjamin said the father-of-three had an impoverished upbringing and subsequently turned to drugs.
He submitted medical reports which claimed Tovt suffered from depression and anxiety.
"It cannot be said he was living a life of luxury as a result of his offending," he said.
"He is remorseful for what he has done especially because of the affect his offending will have on his family."
Judge Leanne Clare was scathing in sentencing Tovt to five years behind bars.
"Your distress I believe, is only due to the fact you were caught and you realised you would be going to jail for a very long time," she said.
"Card skimming strikes at the heart of our country's financial institutions.
"Your offending was premeditated, calculated and to make it worse you recruited 20 vulnerable people to do your dirty work.
"You were an extremely high and trusted member of a well-organised international crime syndicate that was funnelling stolen money out of this country."
Judge Clare activated the 20 months Tovt had remaining on his suspended sentence stemming from the 2011 dishonesty conviction.
She ordered the five years prison sentence not commence until he serves out the remainder of the suspended sentence.
Judge Clare ordered that Tovt serve at least two-and-a-half years of the sentence, which will commence on June 20 next year, before being eligible to apply for parole. Tovt will be eligible to apply for parole in December, 2017.