U.S. Attorney's Office
Northern District of Illinois
(312) 353-5300
May 27, 2015

Chicago-Area Men Charged with Altering ATM Settings to Disperse More Cash Than Reported

CHICAGO—Two men were indicted on April 29, 2015, by a federal grand jury in an indictment unsealed today for allegedly intending to defraud ATMs in and around Chicago by altering the settings of the ATMs so that the actual amounts disbursed far exceeded the withdrawal requests as well as the balance of the accounts from which the withdrawal requests were made. The funds that were fraudulently obtained totaled approximately $185,000. The defendants, Trent Ratliff and Fredrick Lee, were charged in a 10-count indictment. Both defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit computer access fraud as well as separate counts of computer access fraud, corresponding to specific ATM withdrawals.

The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Ratfliff, 52, of Chicago, and Lee, 60, of Chicago, were arraigned today before the Honorable Gary Feinerman and were released on a $4,500 bond. Both defendants have a status date on August 24, 2015. The indictment seeks forfeiture of approximately $185,000.

According to the indictment, Ratliff and Lee, using debit cards that were registered in their own names from various banks or using debit cards that were registered in the names of several other individuals, deposited, or caused to be deposited, nominal sums of money on these debit cards. Between September 2010 and January 2011, using these debit cards, Ratliff and Lee accessed the management function of various ATMs in and around Chicago, without authorization from the owners of the ATMs, and altered the settings so that the ATMs falsely recorded, incorrectly reported, and transmitted debit amounts that exceeded the balance of the debit card accounts. In many cases, Ratliff and Lee altered the ATM settings so that account debits were recorded and reported by the ATM as one-twentieth of the actual funds that the ATM disbursed. In other words, a request for $100 from an altered ATM resulted in the disbursement of $2,000. Following the withdrawal of money from these ATMs, Ratliff and Lee again accessed the management function of the ATMs and changed the settings back so that subsequent account debits from that ATM were recorded and reported as being equal to the actual funds disbursed.

Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The government is being represented by Assistant United States Attorney Naana Frimpong.

The public is reminded that an indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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