News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Electronic Crimes Task Force Targets Skimming Rings

U.S. Attorney and Secret Service Offer Tips for Avoiding Skimmers

September 19, 2011

            Over the last two weeks, the Electronic Crimes Task Force has arrested a half dozen members of  crime groups in Washington State who used electronic ‘skimming’ devices to drain victim bank accounts and run up unauthorized credit card charges.  The task force, lead by the U.S. Secret Service, has made the skimming activity a priority over the last 18 months.  Two defendants arrested last week, ISMAIL SALI and EUGEN TIRCA are scheduled for detention hearings today and Wednesday.  TIRCA is a Romanian national, illegally residing in the United States.

            “The suspects arrested over the last few weeks account for more than a million dollars in losses to banks and consumers,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan who chairs the Justice Department’s Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement working group.  “We believe that with this most recent arrest, we have located and dismantled the nerve center of one of the most prolific rings, which used illegal immigrants from Romania to commit the frauds.”

            Throughout the course of these investigations, authorities have seized forms for making card skimmers, fake face plates for ATM machines, gift cards and electronic equipment for encoding stolen account data onto the cards.  At the Kirkland home where SALI and TIRCA reside, investigators found documents tying SALI to defendants who have previously been arrested and prosecuted for skimming activity.

            The U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Secret Service have some tips for consumers to try to avoid being victimized by skimmers:

  • If the access door to a lobby ATM is broken, don’t use the ATM, go somewhere else.
  • If there is more than one ATM, and a sign has been placed on one of the units saying it is out of service, go somewhere else – the sign could be an attempt to direct traffic to the machine where skimming equipment is installed.


  • Check the machine before putting your card in – is the card slot securely in the machine? Has anything been installed around the edges of the machine that could conceal a camera?  Is any glue or sticky substance around the key pad or card slot?
  • Always attempt to cover your hand when you enter your PIN so that if there is a camera, the numbers cannot be captured.
  • Watch your account activity and report any unauthorized credit or debit charges immediately.

Both SALI and TRICA are charged with possession of access device equipment.  If convicted the defendants face up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine.  The charges contained in the complaint are only allegations.  A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven Masada and Norman Barbosa.


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