HOUSTON – Two Romanian men have pleaded guilty for traveling to Houston to place card skimmers on ATMs and stealing money from bank accounts, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
Crisian Viorel Ciobanu, 30, of Romania, was part of a group that traveled to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas to steal money from victims’ bank accounts. In each state, Ciobanu and his 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. Bogdan Mirel Constantin, 40, of Romania, joined the group in Houston.
Ciobanu pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faces up to 7.5 years for the conspiracy as well as a mandatory two years for the identity theft which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed. Constantin pleaded guilty to theft aggravated identity theft and faces the same two mandatory years in federal prison. The charges also carry a possible $250,000 maximum fine. They have agreed to pay full restitution.
Ciobanu’s sentencing has been set for Jan. 8, 2018, before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein, while Constantin is set for Jan. 26, 2018. They will both remain in custody pending that hearing.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chu is prosecuting the case.