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Men pocket $1.5m in alleged ATM skimming spree

Feds charge men with aggravated ID theft

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Four men have been charged with stealing $1.5 million from banks by using electronic devices to secretly record personal identification numbers as customers entered them into automatic teller machines and other gear.

Most of the skimming devices used in the 14-month spree involved the use of fraudulent pads that customers use to enter their account PINs before engaging in a transaction with a teller. According to an indictment filed in federal court Monday, the men surreptitiously replaced PIN pads in at least seven banks in Manhattan, Chicago and the Miami area with identical-looking devices that recorded confidential data each time they were used. The compromised PIN pads were equipped with the ability for the stolen data to be accessed remotely.

The men also placed skimming devices on the card readers of automatic teller machines located in bank vestibules, according to the 14-page indictment. The two banks targeted were Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, prosecutors said.

After obtaining the confidential account information, the men “then encoded the stolen account information onto the magnetic stripes of blank plastic cards, such as store gift cards” and used the counterfeit cards to make unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts that corresponded to the purloined information. In all, the men pocketed at least $1.5 million in the scheme, which lasted from March 2010 to May, prosecutors said.

The indictment names Mihail Draghici, Ionel Dedulescu and Laurentiu Mugurel Manta, who were identified as citizens of Romainia. It also names Didi Theodor Ciulei, whom prosecutors said was a citizen of Austria. Ciulei and Manta were arrested on May 29 in Chicago. Draghici and Dedulescu were arrested in December at Miami International Airport while attempting to board an international flight.

All four are charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Draghici and Dedulescu are additionally changed with bank fraud. If convicted, Draghici and Dedulescu face a maximum of 69 years in prison; Ciulei and Manta face a maximum of 62 years. ®

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