Two Bulgarian men who entered the country disguised as Masters Games athletes have been jailed for a "sophisticated" bank fraud scheme.
Nedelcho Rosenov Kolev, 29, and Stoyan Dimitrov Hristov, 31, appeared in the Auckland District Court today for sentencing on a charges of using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage.
Judge Chris Sygrove sentenced both men, with the aid of a Bulgarian translator, to eight months in jail. They will be deported at the conclusion of their prison term, the court heard.
Police described the offending as "sophisticated, premeditated and repeated".
When Kolev and Hristov arrived in New Zealand together on April 20 they told immigration officers they were in the country to participate in the Masters Games.
But between April 20 and May 1 they tried to scam Kiwis 188 times at several ATMs around Auckland by using cloned bank cards.
However, during that period the men were caught on several CCTV cameras using 11 cloned cards.
Together they stole $15,060 from ASB machines and made attempts to withdraw a further $33,570.
The Herald understands the men were arrested on May 3 near a Royal Oak supermarket.
When they were apprehended police seized $15,000 in cash, the court heard.
Hristov declined to comment to officers, but Kolev said he was given the bank cards by unknown people and told to use them. He said in return he could keep some of the cash.
The Bulgarians' lawyer Dr Richard Keam said his clients were "a couple of very foolish young men caught up in something" and did not attempt to defend their charges.
Judge Sygrove ordered that $9191 of the stolen money be repaid to ASB, while the remaining balance was to be forfeited to the Crown.
The Herald has independently examined the Bulgarian Masters Games team list, and neither Kolev or Hristov are named as official athletes, coaches, or support staff.
ATM skimming is one of the financial industry's fastest-growing electronic crimes, and now costs firms, banks, institutions, and consumers $8 billion annually in the US alone, according to the US Secret Service.
Police believe that losses to the New Zealand financial industry run into the millions of dollars every year.