Romanian Men Ordered to Prison for Roles in ATM Skimming Crew
HOUSTON – Three Romanian men have been ordered to prison for their roles in the placement of card skimmers on ATMs and stealing money from bank accounts, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Cristian Viorel Ciobanu, 31, Bogdan Mirel Constantin, 34, both of Romania, pleaded guilty Oct. 27, 2017. A third defendant – Daniel Marius Muraretu, 40, also of Romania – entered his plea Jan. 26, 2018.
Ciobanu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. Today, U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. ordered him to serve 42 months for the fraud in addition to another two years for the identity theft which must be served consecutively for a total of 66 months in federal prison.
Constantin pleaded guilty to theft aggravated identity theft and received a mandatory two years in prison, while Muraretu received 37 months for his conviction of the conspiracy charge. They were all also ordered to pay restitution of $390,487.64
At the hearing, Ciobanu told the court he had made a mistake. In handing down Ciobanu’s sentence, Judge Werlein noted that he had committed one crime after another after another in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas and then California. “You did not just make a mistake. This was not just a matter of you bumping into someone,” Werlein said. “You claim you are a good man – but this is not the mark of a good man.”
Ciobanu, Muraretu and Constantin were part of a group that traveled to the United States and then to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas to steal money from victims’ bank accounts. Further, after fleeing arrest in 2016, Ciobanu was arrested in 2017, apparently committing the same crimes in California.
In each state, the co-conspirators used card skimmers to steal ATM card numbers as customers inserted their cards into the machines. They also used hidden cameras to record customers as they entered their PINs. Armed with this stolen data, they then made their own fake ATM cards. They then used those fake cards and stolen PINs to withdraw at least $390,495.84 from customer accounts. Constantin joined the group in Houston.
All have been and remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu is prosecuting the case.