ROMANIAN NATIONAL SENTENCED TO TWO YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON FOR ROLE IN MULTISTATE ATM “SKIMMING” SCHEME
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that ION PREDA, also known as “Mircea Preda,” 23, a citizen of Romania, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Janet C. Hall in Bridgeport to 24 months of imprisonment, time served, followed by five years of supervised release, for his role in a multistate ATM “skimming” scheme. PREDA has been detained since his arrest on May 3, 2010.
According court documents and statements made in court, PREDA and others conspired to install “skimming” devices on automated teller machines (“ATMs”), and on card swipe access devices used by banks to control access to ATM lobby doors, in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. The devices were able to capture the information encoded on the magnetic strips of bank cards used by ATM customers. They also placed devices on the ATMs that contained hidden pinhole cameras, which were positioned in such a way as to be able to record the personal identification numbers that bank customers keyed into the ATMs to gain access to their accounts. The group then used this stolen information to create counterfeit bank cards that allowed them to withdraw funds from the customers’ accounts.
In September 2009, PREDA and co-defendant Marius Olustean installed a pin-capturing device on a People’s United Bank ATM in Madison, Conn., and then used cloned ATM cards and stolen PINs to withdraw cash from compromised accounts using another People’s United Bank ATM in Greenwich, Connecticut. Also, in June and July 2009, PREDA, Olustean and others placed skimming devices and pinhole cameras at a Wachovia Bank ATM and PNC Bank ATM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and stole money from compromised accounts at those banks.
Other banks and account holders also were victimized during the scheme, which resulted in a combined loss to all of the victim banks of more than $200,000. Today, PREDA was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of approximately $202,000.
PREDA and Olustean were arrested by the Indiana State Police on May 3, 2010. At that time, the defendants possessed $1,285 in cash, laptop computers, gift cards, tools, and Western Union receipts.
On October 18, 2010, PREDA pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft stemming from this scheme.
On December 2, 2010, Olustean pleaded guilty to the same charges. On March 9, 2011, he was sentenced to 41 months of imprisonment.
This investigation was conducted by the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force, notably the United States Secret Service and the Greenwich Police Department. The Task Force also includes members of the United States Postal Inspection Service; the United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security; the Connecticut State Police; and the Glastonbury, Greenwich, Hartford, New Haven and Shelton Police Departments. U.S. Attorney Fein specifically recognized the efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Virginia State Police and the Indiana State Police for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution of this matter.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas P. Morabito and Susan L. Wines.
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