Prosecutors want to try 2 teens as adults in ATM scheme

AP logo
Saturday, October 17, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska prosecutors want to try two California 16-year-olds as adults for what prosecutors say was the teens' involvement in what may be a nationwide ATM fraud scheme.

Police suspect the two are part of a group of Romanians under investigation for mounting "skimming" devices and pinhole cameras on ATMs so they can steal account numbers and loot the accounts, according to the Lincoln Journal Star. The two as well as three other teens were arrested Sept. 25 in Lincoln after one was seen planting devices on a bank ATM.

"The motivation of this crime appears to be the theft of tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars from citizens through an elaborate scheme," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Christopher Reid said Wednesday, arguing for Judge Reggie Ryder to transfer the cases out of juvenile court.

The boys' attorneys are fighting the move. Defense attorney Steffanie Kotik argued that if the operation was as sophisticated as the state believes, the boys clearly "are not the brains behind the organization."

Another defense attorney, George Dungan, said that even if his client were involved with a large criminal organization, its leaders have clearly taken advantage of the boy.

The Associated Press generally doesn't name juveniles accused of crimes.

The boys' mothers spoke at the hearing, saying that they didn't know how their sons ended up in Lincoln. Reid asked one of the moms if she knew her son had been in Florida in March, and she said no. When Reid questioned the other mom about what investigators say they've learned about her son's travels, she told him she didn't know he'd been in Tennessee, Florida, Oregon and South Dakota before coming to Lincoln.

Prosecutors have dropped the cases filed against the two youngest of the five teens. The fifth one, age 15, has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of criminal impersonation. He was sentenced to a year of probation, with supervision in Buena Park, California, where he lives with his mother.

Authorities have said all five teens were from California. One of the five said he was from San Francisco, and one said he lived in Anaheim. Authorities haven't said where remaining two teens live.