Seven Romanian Nationals Plead Guilty to Racketeering Conspiracy and ATM Skimming
BOSTON – Seven Romanian nationals pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with an ATM skimming scheme operating throughout Massachusetts and other states including Connecticut, New York and South Carolina.
Constantin Denis Hornea, 23; Maria Lazar, 19; Ludemis Hornea, 20; Claudiu Florea, 25; Denisa Bonculescu, 27; and Anamaria Margel, 23, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, more commonly known as RICO conspiracy, and conspiracy to use counterfeit access devices. Constantin Hornea, Lazar, and Ludemis Hornea also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and money laundering conspiracy; Constantin and Ludemis Hornea also pleaded guilty to possession of device making equipment; and Florea also pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy. Ion Trifu, 25, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use counterfeit access devices and money laundering conspiracy. U.S. District Court Judge William G. Young scheduled sentencing for March 15, 2018.
In May 2017, the defendants were indicted along with five others whose whereabouts remain unknown.
The defendants, except for Trifu, were members of the Hornea Crew (“Crew”), led by Constantin Denis Hornea and Ludemis Hornea, and engaged in ATM skimming – obtaining debit card numbers and PINs from unsuspecting bank customers, creating counterfeit cards, and making unauthorized withdrawals from the victims’ bank accounts. Over a period of 18 months, the Crew installed skimming devices and made unauthorized withdrawals in seven states, including Massachusetts. In particular, members of the Crew installed skimming devices in the following locations: Amherst, Bellingham, Billerica, Braintree, Chicopee, Quincy, Southwick, Waltham, Weymouth, and Whately, Mass.; Enfield, Conn.; Columbia, Greenville, Greenwood, Mauldin, and Saluda, S.C.; Savannah, Ga.; and Yadkinville, N.C. The Crew made unauthorized withdrawals at ATMs in approximately 29 Massachusetts towns; seven Connecticut towns; six New York towns; Salem, N.H.; and Sumter, S.C.
Members of the Hornea Crew and Trifu transferred money throughout the United States and to Romania and the People’s Republic of China. Some of those transfers were for the purchase of skimming devices and related components from abroad.
The charge of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fine of $250,000. The charge of conspiracy to use counterfeit access devices provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and fine of $250,000. The charge of aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory consecutive term of two years in prison. The charge of possession of device making equipment provides for a sentence of no greater than 15 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years or supervised, and a fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved in the crime, whichever is greater. The defendants will face deportation proceedings upon completion of their sentences. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb; Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Colonel Kerry A. Gilpin, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, made the announcement today. Assistance with the investigation was also provided by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI) in Boston; Massachusetts Department of Correction; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Amherst, Billerica, Braintree, Boston, Quincy, Southwick, Waltham, Whately, and Westwood Police Departments; Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force, consisting of the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Service, IRS-CI, Connecticut State Police, and Greenwich Police Department; the New York City Police Department; Houston Police Department; South Carolina Law Enforcement Division; Richland County (South Carolina) Sheriff’s Department; Florence and Saluda (South Carolina) Police Departments; and the Solicitor’s Offices of Greenville and Saluda Counties. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy E. Moran of Weinreb’s Organized Crime and Gang Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.