Using high-tech skills and a doctored debit card, a Flushing man allegedly turned two Queens ATMs into slot machines that dispensed nearly a quarter-million dollars in cash to thieves, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.
Eric Salazar Montano, 33, of Hollis Court in the Auburndale section of Flushing was arraigned on March 13 on charges of grand larceny, computer tampering, criminal possession of a forged instrument and computer trespassing.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, Montano and an unidentified cohort hacked into automated teller machines at a Kew Gardens deli and the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst in two incidents last December. Posing as technicians, they allegedly manipulated the ATMs in such a way that they soon spewed out greenbacks like slot machines in a casino.
As a result, authorities said, several unidentified people linked to Montero visited the machines and scooped up thousands of dollars in cash without even swiping a card or punching in a PIN.
“As society becomes more tech savvy, today’s criminals are keeping pace and finding new ways to enrich themselves illegally,” Brown said in a March 14 statement. “This new trend is called ‘jackpotting,’ and we are set to deliver big losses for gamblers who ante up.”
Law enforcement sources said the first jackpotting incident occurred on Dec. 28, 2017, at a grocery store on Metropolitan Avenue in Kew Gardens. Police said that Montero and an unidentified accomplice, while posing as uniformed technicians, were seen on security cameras opening up an ATM. They allegedly manipulated the machine, then left the store for a few minutes before returning.
Soon after the suspects came back, the criminal complaint noted, several unapprehended others approached the ATM one at a time. Without using a bank card, they removed $154,000 in cash that the machine dispensed.
Two days later, on Dec. 30, Montero and another unapprehended individual were seen approaching an ATM at the Queens Center Mall. After tinkering with the device, Brown said, a co-defendant and several other unapprehended persons collected more than $87,000 in dispensed cash.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill noted that the NYPD Financial Crimes Task Force, with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service, cracked the case and tracked Montero down. In executing a search warrant at Montero’s home on Tuesday, police found a forged credit/debit card and more than $42,000 in cash.
Montero was ordered held on $30,000 bond or $15,000 cash and to return to court on March 27. He faces up to 15 years behind bars if convicted.