A 22-year-old Seattle man with alleged ties to international organized crime is facing charges for identity theft, and facing possible federal prosecution, following a multi-state investigation into bank card skimming.
Charging documents filed in King County Superior Court last week allege Beneyam G-Sellassie stole more than $135,000 from accounts in Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada over the last year using bank card skimmers.
Police finally caught up to G-Sellassie at a Chase Bank at 23rd and Jackson on June 5th, after bank security discovered he was trying to use card numbers skimmed at three Las Vegas banks several weeks earlier.
Court records say G-Sellassie used skimmers and pin hole cameras to capture card numbers at three Las Vegas banks between May 21st and May 25th.
G-Sellassie then allegedly took the skimmed numbers, and “re-encoded” American Express, Visa, and Mastercard gift cards with the stolen card numbers, which he used in at least 66 transactions in the Seattle area.
According to police records, when officers contacted G-Sellassie at the Central District bank, he looked as if was going to flee, and never asked police why they were contacting him, and repeatedly told officers “I don’t want to go to jail, when can I go home?.”
When officers searched G-Sellassie, they found $2,056 in cash, and 22 gift and debit cards with hand-written PIN numbers taped to the back of them, police records say.
Police also say the screensaver on G-Sellassie’s phone shows a picture of him “holding at least four bundles of currency.”
After arresting G-Sellassie in the Central District, police booked him into the King County Jail for identity theft. G-Sellassie quickly covered his $50,000 bail and was released.
It appears detectives from the Seattle Police Department and US Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force kept him under surveillance, and picked him up again on the 8th and booked him on $250,000 bail, after they discovered G-Sellassie may have ties to organized crime.
Court records say G-Sellassie has “clear connections to…organized crime rings operating in this state, in other states, and in other countries that commit this type of skimming crime.”
Court documents say the Secret Service is assisting in the investigation, and the US Attorney’s office may also file charges in the case.
A Facebook page which appears to be G-Sellassie’s indicates he was previously a bank teller at Washington Mutual (now Chase bank) and interned at Microsoft. His apparent Facebook pages indicates he was supposed to graduate from the University of Washington’s engineering program this year.