4 arrested in ATM thefts, tampering
by Carol Sowers - May. 31, 2008 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
Scottsdale police arrested four people in connection with tricking automated teller machines at three luxury Scottsdale hotels into spitting out more than $100,000 to buy drugs and prostitutes.
Tinkering with computers' complex innards is a "more sophisticated way" of robbing ATMs, said Jack Hudock, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, which regulates banks.
About a year ago, thieves were stealing backhoes to dig out ATMs and truck them to remote areas where they broke them open, Hudock said.
Since then, banks have put them at more secure sites.
Video surveillance tapes helped nab the two men and two women suspected in the hotel ATM heists.
"This was quite an extensive investigation," said Sgt. Mark Clark, a police spokesman.
The three hotels identified by police were Scottsdale Marriott Suites, 7325 E. 3rd Ave.; Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas, 6333 N. Scottsdale Road; and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road.
Over the past three months, the suspects inserted a device into card readers of the hotel ATMs, Clark said.
They then used computer-hacking skills to manipulate the ATMs' internal programming, causing the machines to spit out more money than it should have, he said.
The money was to be used for prostitutes and drugs, Clark said.
ATM technicians who serviced the machines discovered that the amount of missing money didn't square with receipts, he said.
Police identified those arrested and their pending charges:
• Onik J. Darmandzhyan, 32, of Glendale; burglary, two counts of felony theft and dangerous drugs.
• Michael J. DeMatteo, 32, of Scottsdale; two counts of felony theft.
• Tiffany L. McGrath, 24, of Peoria; felony theft, computer tampering and identity theft.
• Alissa M. Kerr, 30, of Scottsdale; dangerous drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Darmandzhyan and DeMatteo visited the Hilton several times over two or three weeks, Clark said.
About 3 a.m. May 18, when the hotel was all but deserted, thieves loaded the Hilton's ATM onto a dolly and wheeled it into their truck. A security guard spotted them, described the truck and people to police, leading to their arrest. They were also caught on a surveillance tape.
The ATM was worth $4,650 and contained $7,840, according to a court document.
Police found a shattered ATM at DeMatteo's home, with a few thousand dollars still in it, Clark said.
May 30, 2008 - 6:26PM
Four arrested in Scottsdale hotel ATM thefts
Mike Sakal, Tribune
Scottsdale police arrested three people who they say are connected to a string of ATM thefts worth $100,000 from three upscale hotels.
Police said the alleged thieves used a technique called "skimming," which involves inserting a device into the card readers of the ATM machines. Through the use of computer hacking skills, the device manipulates internal programming to trigger the ATM to release more cash than it's supposed to, police said.
Onik J. Darmandzhyan, 32, of Glendale and Michael J. DeMatteo, 32, of Scottsdale were booked in connection with felony theft. Darmandzhyan also was booked on burglary and drug charges.
Tiffany L. McGrath, 24, of Peoria was booked in connection with felony theft, computer tampering and identity theft.
Another woman involved with the group, 30-year-old Alissa M. Kerr of Scottsdale, was booked on drug charges.
The arrests were the result of a three-month police investigation into a series of thefts at the Scottsdale Marriot Suites, 7325 E. Third Ave., Hilton Scottsdale Resort and Villas, 6333 N. Scottsdale Road, and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa, 7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Road.
Detectives from the Scottsdale Police Department's property crimes and fraud unit executed three search warrants at three residences connected to the suspects throughout the Valley.
Police discovered altered credit cards, the remains of a stolen ATM and money-skimming devices, all of which connected the suspects to the ATM thefts, according to police.
Acting on tips from various sources, police say they were able to obtain video surveillance of men resembling Darmandzyhan and DeMatteo stealing an ATM from the business center inside the Hilton about 3 a.m. on May 18.