Thomas Beeckmann, a 26-year old German electronics engineer, has been sentenced to three years in a UK prison for having modified a number of PIN Entry Devices to record the information used to clone credit and debit cards on behest of organized crime networks.
The devices would be stolen by members of the criminal networks from shops all around Europe and would be shipped to the UK where they would be modified by Beeckmann. He would insert additional circuit boards into the devices in order to make them able to record card details and PINs.
After the modification, the devices would be put back in circulation in shops in Europe and would be periodically “visited” by members of the criminal organizations, who were able to download the stored information via Bluetooth. Indeed, they didn’t even have to enter the shops, as the information could be gathered by using a laptop or mobile phone from up to 100 meters away.
Beeckmann, who lives in Thailand, was arrested in June when he was entering the UK from Holland. The police found in his possession 17 circuit boards, three of which had the Bluetooth-sending capability.
During the trial, he pleaded guilty to the possession of these items and to having declined to share the password to his encrypted laptop to the police – a move punishable by law but one that has possibly spared him a lengthier sentence.
“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,” said the police in a statement.
The judge presiding over the trial commented that the confiscated equipment showed levels of sophistication not previously seen by UK investigators.