Italian ATM hacker may be tied to mob activities

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Guam – Is it possible our beloved island has been caught in the cross-hairs of the Italian mob?

On Wednesday, 27-year-old Nicola Marinelli was arrested for planting fake ATM card readers in two locations. Marinelli has no local address. Whether the Italian citizen was acting alone or is part of a larger syndicate is a question still unanswered, but emerging details surrounding this case suggest the latter.

The first ATM skimming device was discovered at the Micronesia Mall food court in June. Several weeks later, a second skimming device was found at the mall, and another at the Subway restaurant in Agat. All three skimming devices were affixed to Bank of Guam automated teller machines.

Following the first discovery the FBI released surveillance footage of the suspect, but no arrests were made. Then, earlier this week, Bank of Guam released images obtained from an ATM camera that depicted the suspect, later confirmed as Marinelli.

The break in the case came by chance as a Bank of Guam manager who was working on the case decided to go for some Italian dinner at Pizza hut in Tamuning. Standing in line in front of him was none other than the man he and his team were investigating. The banker contacted the police, who arrived shortly after.

Court documents state that Marinelli agreed to be taken in by the police officers for questioning. The suspect then told GPD that a man only identified as “Michele” approached him in Italy and suggested that Marinelli place the skimming devices on ATMs here on Guam. Marinelli’s financial plight impelled him to agree with the criminal proposition. The suspect allegedly told police that “Michele” may be connected to organized crime in Italy.

Should the local community expect more skimmers lurking around the island?

According to court documents, Marinelli told police he arrived on Guam on August 1st — at least one month after the discovery of the first skimming device. In a video released by the FBI, the man responsible for the first hacked ATM is heavier in build and taller than Marinelli.

Marinelli has also only claimed responsibility for two skimming devices, though he did inform police that he arrived on Guam with three devices, discarding one in Tumon. Court documents state that police were not able to recover the third device. Meanwhile, police say that the Italian National was in possession of numerous credit cards, all confirmed by the US Secret Service as fraudulent.

The foreign suspect has appeared for a magistrate hearing, but because no interpreter was present, the hearing has been placed on hold until today. Marinelli faces two counts of use of a skimming device.

Because this case involves bank fraud, the federal authorities also have jurisdiction to prosecute the suspect. You may recall three other men admittedly working for a secret Chinese criminal organization were sentenced in District Court after they were discovered in possession of 118 fraudulent credit cards. The bogus credit cards were to be used to “go shopping” at high end retail stores in Tumon. The merchandise was then to be sent to various addresses in the U.S., Hong Kong and Macao.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.