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6 people charged with stealing $300,000 using card skimmers in Mass., RI

The suspects are said to have placed skimmers at a self-checkout at a Walmart in Pennsylvania. United States Attorney’s Office, District of Rhode Island

Six Europeans living in the United States illegally are charged with planting card skimmers at dozens of retail outlets and ATMs in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and four other states, officials said. The group is believed to have withdrawn more than $300,000 from compromised bank accounts.

Four of the defendants, who live in California, appeared in federal court in Rhode Island on Tuesday. A fifth person is being transferred to Rhode Island and an arrest warrant is outstanding for the sixth person involved, the state’s U.S. Attorney’s Office said. The members of the alleged theft ring come from Ireland, Romania and Britain.

Where were the skimmers placed?

According to federal prosecutors, the investigation into the skimmers began last fall, when Bristol, Rhode Island, police were alerted to a skimmer placed at a bank’s drive-through ATM.

From there, Homeland Security Investigations discovered that at least one member of the gang had allegedly placed skimming devices at BJ’s Wholesale Clubs and Walmarts in Warwick, Johnston and Coventry, Rhode Island, and in Avon, Raynham, Seekonk and Walpole, Massachusetts. In total, 22 skimmers were found at BJ’s locations in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Skimmers were also found at two banks in Westerly, Rhode Island. In December, an elderly couple discovered that $25,000 had been fraudulently withdrawn from both accounts, according to the HSI investigation report. In total, $279,250 was withdrawn from various ATMs at Westerly Community Credit Union, affecting 44 accounts, officials said.

It is reported that one or more of the six individuals charged were caught on security cameras manipulating cash register equipment between September and December last year.

“The scale, scope and brazen nature of these defendants’ scheme to steal unsuspecting consumers’ financial account information and use it to extort money and property, as we have alleged in federal court, is astounding,” U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said in a statement.

Four people appear in court in Rhode Island

Armando Ion Condreanu, 23, of Ireland, is charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity fraud. Isabela Ignat Codreanu, 23, of Romania, Robby Viscon Codreanu, 20, of the United Kingdom, and Mila Ciuciu, 20, of Romania, are each charged with conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

Nicolas Longin Codreanu, 21, of Romania and Ireland, is in U.S. custody and is facing charges of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity fraud in Rhode Island. Ionut Zamfir, 37, of Romania, is facing the same charges but has not yet been arrested.

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