Electronics engineer jailed for fraud

14 October 2011

New Scotland Yard

A German electronics engineer who used his skills to help criminal gangs clone credit and debit cards and steal thousands of pounds from members of the public has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Thomas Beeckmann, 26, was 'employed' by organised criminal networks (OCNs) to compromise PIN Entry Devices (PEDs) so that once placed back on a shop counter they recorded all card details and PINs. OCNs then downloaded this information and used the data to create cloned cards which were then used in countries such as the USA, where there is no chip and PIN system.

During a hearing at the Old Bailey on 16 September, Beeckmann pleaded guilty to one offence of possession of articles for use in fraud contrary to section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006.

He also pleaded guilty to failing to tell the police what the password to his laptop was - an offence under the privisions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The court heard how members of the OCNs stole PEDs from shop counters throughout Europe - mostly outside the UK. They then brought the devices back to the UK where they were worked upon by Beeckmann. The gangs then took the PEDs back to the point of the original theft and re-introduced them into the system.

Beeckmann's knowledge was so sophisticated that the printed circuit boards he inserted in to the PEDs recorded the data and then, on request by a nearby OCN member, downloaded the data via Bluetooth.

Once in place the PED worked as normal and did not need to be handled by the OCN.

Beeckmann was arrested on 8 June this year as he entered the UK from Holland, via Victoria Coach Station in London. He was arrested by police officers from the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit as part of an intelligence-led operation.

A search of his possessions uncovered a series of circuit boards that would have been used in PEDs for placement in Holland and Belgium.

Although it is not known how much money he was paid for his work, it was enough to sustain his wife and two children in his home in Thailand.

Investigating office Detective Sergeant Richard Maynard, said: "By putting this individual behind bars the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit has prevented them from defrauding the banking industry and its customers of significant sums of money. There can be no doubt that the work of our specialist unit over the past few years has played a key part in driving card fraud down, and we continue to provide a clear warning to the organised gangs and those who work with them that we will track them down."