Member Of Large-Scale ATM Skimming Scheme Admits Role In Bank Fraud Conspiracy
NEWARK, N.J. – A native of Romania who was arrested in Spain and extradited to the United States admitted today to participating in a large-scale, long-running scheme to steal bank customer account information, commonly referred to as “ATM skimming,” by installing secret card-reading devices and pinhole cameras on ATMs throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, and elsewhere, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Robert Mate, a/k/a “Chioru,” a/k/a “Marcel Varga,” 29, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court to Count One of a six-count indictment, which charged him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Of the other two individuals charged on the indictment, Alin Dumitru Carabus was apprehended in Spain and extradited to the United States, and his case is pending, and Ionut Vasile Ciurba-Stana remains at large.
According to documents filed in this case and other cases and statements made in court:
Mate participated as a high-level member of an extensive scheme to steal bank customer account information, commonly referred to as “ATM skimming,” by installing secret card-reading devices on ATMs throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, and elsewhere. The scheme was organized by Marius Vintila, 33, who previously pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. The scheme defrauded Citibank, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, and multiple other financial institutions out of at least $5 million and affected thousands of bank customers. Vintila and Bogdan Radu designed and constructed sophisticated card-reader devices and pinhole camera panels capable of reading and storing customers’ bank account information and personal identification numbers. Mate and others then secretly installed the card-reader devices and the pinhole camera panels onto bank ATMs, and removed them a few days later after they had recorded customer bank account information as customers performed routine bank transactions at ATMs. After the account information was stolen, the stolen data was used to create thousands of false and fraudulent ATM cards, which Mate and others used to withdraw millions of dollars from customers’ bank accounts.
The ATM skimming operation in which Mate participated is one of the largest ever uncovered by law enforcement. To date, 16 individuals have been charged in connection with this scheme; 13 have pleaded guilty, and one – Dinu Horvat – was convicted after a week-long trial.
The count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud to which Mate pleaded guilty is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 8, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Pleasant, along with special agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola, with the investigation leading to the above-referenced charges and pleas.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal and David M. Eskew of the office’s Criminal Division.
Defense Counsel: Angelo Servidio Esq., Nutley, New Jersey