Queens, N.Y., Men Plead Guilty To Large-Scale Atm Skimming Scheme Targeting New Jersey Bank Customers
NEWARK, N.J. – Three Romanian natives living in Queens, N.Y., today admitted their involvement in a long-running and lucrative scheme to steal account information from bank customers throughout New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut by installing secret card-reading devices on ATMs, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Emil Revesz, a/k/a “Daniel Laptes,” 31, Constantin Pendus, a/k/a “Florin Bodgan Hristea,” 30, and Florin Apetrei, 19, each pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court. Revesz pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Pendus and Apetrei each pleaded guilty to informations charging them with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Revesz and Pendus have been held without bail since their arrests on June 27, 2013, and Apetrei has been held without bail since his arrest on July 12, 2013.
According to documents filed in this case and other cases and statements made in court:
Revesz, Pendus, Apetrei, and others participated in a large-scale ATM skimming scheme that involved the installation of skimmers and pinhole cameras on ATMs. Each skimmer, an electronic device, would read and record identity and account information contained in the magnetic strip of a customer’s ATM card. Each pinhole camera would secretly record bank customers’ keystrokes as they entered their personal identification numbers. The customer account information that was captured by the skimming devices and pinhole cameras was used to create counterfeit ATM cards that were then used to withdraw millions of dollars in cash from bank ATMs. From June 2012 through July 2013, the conspirators stole more than $5 million from Wells Fargo, Citibank, and TD Bank.
Revesz admitted he was one of the conspirators who installed skimmers and pinhole cameras at bank ATMs and who subsequently used counterfeit ATM cards to withdraw cash from Wells Fargo, Citibank, and TD throughout New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Pendus admitted his participation in the scheme as it related to TD Bank, and Apetrei admitted to his participation in defrauding Wells Fargo Bank. Apetrei admitted he picked up pinhole camera parts and attempted, upon his arrest, to destroy debit cards containing the picture and name of another individual.
The charges to which Revesz, Pendus and Apetrei pleaded guilty arose from a large investigation into a skimming scheme that targeted customers in the tri-state area in 2012 and early 2013. Of the 13 others charged in relation to the wider scheme, 12 are in custody.
The leader of the scheme, Marius Vintila, 31, was apprehended in Sweden and extradited to the United States on Feb. 7, 2014. Vintila was charged in a six-count indictment on Feb.18, 2014, with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess 15 or more counterfeit access devices, possession of 15 or more counterfeit access devices, conspiracy to possess access device-making equipment, and possession of access device-making equipment. Vintila and a conspirator, Bogdan Radu, 31, designed and created the actual skimming devices and pinhole cameras and Vintila recruited individuals, including Revesz, Pendus, and Apetrei, to install them on bank ATMs. Vintila also used an alias to rent multiple self-storage units, in which he stored the contents of an entire skimming operation, including skimming devices, pinhole cameras, super glue, tape, Secure Digital (SD) memory storage cards, batteries, computers, molds, fraudulent ATM cards, and cash proceeds. Vintila’s multimillion-dollar ATM skimming operation is one of the largest ever uncovered by law enforcement.
Other charged conspirators, including Radu, Constantin Ginga, 53, Marius Cotiga, 36, Dezso Gyapias, 29, Ioan Leusca, 30, Enes Causevic, 23, Luis Franco, 23, Mirel Hadzalic, 24, and another individual charged as “first name unknown, last name unknown,” a/k/a “Chioru,” installed the devices designed by Vintila and Radu onto bank ATMs and used fraudulent ATM cards to steal millions of dollars. They used hats, jackets, scarves and sunglasses to disguise themselves while installing the devices and while using the cards to withdraw money.
Cotiga, Pendus, Revesz, Apetrei, Vintila, Franco, and Hadzalic are in custody in New Jersey and being held without bail. Causevic has been released on bail. Cotiga and Hadzalic previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud and await sentencing, on June 5, 2014, for Cotiga and June 18, 2014, for Hadzalic. Radu previously pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft and awaits sentencing on June 5, 2014. Gyapias and Leusca were each sentenced on Feb. 20, 2014, to 57-month terms of imprisonment, and Ginga was sentenced on Feb. 26, 2014, to 57 months in prison. The individual known as “Chioru” remains at large.
The bank fraud conspiracy charge to which Revesz, Pendus, and Apetrei each pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The aggravated identity theft charge to which Revesz pleaded guilty carries a mandatory, consecutive penalty of two years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing for all three defendants is currently scheduled for Sept. 17, 2014.
U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James Mottola, along with special agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. McLees, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty pleas.
As for the defendants charged in pending complaints, the charges and allegations are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal and David Eskew of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Newark.
Revesz: Joshua Reinitz Esq., Nutley, N.J.
Pendus: Kenneth W. Kayser Esq., East Hanover, N.J.
Apetrei: Paul D. Petrus Jr. Esq., New York