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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 20, 2015

Romanian Native In Large-Scale ATM Skimming Scheme Extradited To The United States To Face Charges

NEWARK, N.J. – A native of Romania who was arrested in Spain will make his initial court appearance today following his extradition to face charges that he participated in a large-scale lucrative ATM skimming scheme targeting New Jersey bank customers, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Robert Mate, a/k/a “Chioru,” a/k/a “Marcel Varga,” 29, will appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson on a six-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess 15 or more counterfeit access devices, and conspiracy to possess access device-making equipment. The other two individuals charged on the indictment, Alin Dumitru Carabus and Ionut Vasile Ciurba-Stana, have been apprehended in Spain and requests for extradition are pending.      

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, 31, 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 cameras 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, it 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, 12 have pleaded guilty, and one individual, Dinu Horvat, was recently convicted after a week-long trial. Marius Vintila, the ringleader of the scheme, pleaded guilty

Marius Vintila, 31, previously pleaded guilty in February 2015 to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. Bogdan Radu, 30, pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges in February 2014. Dinu Horvat, 28, Enes Causevic, 24, Marius Cotiga, 35, Constantin Ginga, 53, Dezso Gyapias, 29, Ioan Leusca, 30, Constantin Pendus, 30, and Emil Revesz, 30, participated in the scheme by installing or removing the devices, and by subsequently using the fraudulent ATM cards to withdraw cash from compromised bank accounts.  Florin Apetrei, 18, Luis Franco, 23, and Mirel Hadzalic, 24, participated in the scheme by using the fraudulent ATM cards to withdraw cash. Causevic, Cotiga, Ginga, Gyapias, Leusca, and Revesz all pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. Apetrei, Cotiga, Pendus, Franco, and Hadzalic pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy. And Horvat was convicted at trial of bank fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess 15 or more access devices, and conspiracy to possess access device-making equipment.

For their roles in the scheme, Judge Martini sentenced Ginga, Gyapias, and Leusca each to 57 months in prison and Franco and Pendus each to 33 months in prison. Hadzalic received a sentence of 34 months in prison, Apetrei received a sentence of 24 months in prison, and Cotiga received a sentence of 26 months in prison. Vintila, Causevic, Radu, Revesz, and Horvat are pending sentencing.           

Mate is charged with four counts, as described below, which carry the following maximum penalties and fines:

Count

Offense

Maximum Penalty

Maximum Fine

1

Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud

Thirty years in prison

$1 million

4

Aggravated Identity Theft

Mandatory, consecutive penalty of two years in prison

$250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense

5

Conspiracy to Possess Fifteen or More Counterfeit Access Devices

Five years in prison

$250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense

6

Conspiracy to Possess Access Device-Making Equipment

Seven and one-half years in prison

$250,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss from the offense

                    

U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Carl Agnelli, along with special agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Newark, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly, with the investigation leading to the charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rahul Agarwal of the Special Prosecutions Division and David M. Eskew of the Criminal Division, Economic Crimes Unit, in Newark.

Defense counsel: Angelo Servidio Esq., Nutley, New Jersey                      

Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
15-136
Updated April 20, 2015