Aris Chiciu, Eugen Bacelan, Maurizio Margel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida were arrested Friday after they allegedly implanted cameras on various ATM machines in an effort to steal information, news sources report. Neamtu Vaduva, 23, Alin Velcu, 24, and Antonio Dumitru, 19 were also indicted in the scheme but have not yet been arrested. Chiciu, 23, Bacelan, 29, and Margel, 29, were booked into the Broward County Main Jail on charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to commit access device fraud. It is unclear whether they qualified for bail bond. It is also unclear whether they hired defense attorneys.
According to reports, Bacelan, Margel, and Chiciu entered the country illegally as long ago as 2005. The trio reportedly operated the scheme throughout Palm Beach and Broward counties between December 23 and February 3. A police report says the suspects used card-reading devices, also referred to as "skimming devices," which fit into the card reader slot of ATM machines. The suspects also used a small camera to record the ATM's keypad while victims typed in their pin codes.
Reports say the men implanted the reading devices on ATMs in West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Sarasota, Hollywood, St. Petersburg, and Lakeland. Once the suspects obtained the victims' debit or credit card information and pin numbers, they would use the information to create fake ATM cards. They would then use those fraudulent cards to withdraw money from the victims' accounts.
Surveillance video from a West Palm Beach ATM reportedly shows Dumitru and an unidentified suspect installing the capturing devices on January 13. The recording devices captured 14 different victims' account information. The two suspects returned to the ATM afterwards to collect the device, sources say. Surveillance footage spotted the two suspects later that day at a Hollywood bank, where they withdrew cash from some of the victims' accounts.
On February 19, Surveillance cameras captured Dumitru and two other suspects placing recording equipment at a Delray Beach ATM. The suspects returned after collecting 25 different victims' bank information. One day later, the suspects withdrew money from some of those victim's accounts at an ATM in Hallandale Beach.
An investigation carried out by the FBI's Miami Division, the Palm Beach County Sherriff's Office, the Broward County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations showed that the defendants planted or tried to plant the recording equipment at 18 different ATMs throughout South Florida while they were operating their scheme. The defendants made off with 407 different victims' bank information, sources allege.
Three of the six suspects - Vaduva, Velcu, and Dumitru - are still wanted by police for questioning. Reports say the three suspects' last known dwelling place was in the Broward County area. In addition to the bank fraud charges, each of the suspects faces charges related to illegally entering the country. A police investigation is ongoing, and officers are asking anyone with additional information to call the FBI's Miami division. It is not clear whether the victims will be reimbursed for their losses, nor is it clear exactly how much money was taken.
Sources: 2.27.13 Fort Lauderdale Bank Fraud.pdf.