Member of $5 million ATM skimming scheme convicted on multiple charges

NEWARK – A Chicago man was convicted at trial today for his role in a large-scale, long-running, and lucrative scheme to steal bank customer account information – commonly referred to as “ATM skimming” – by installing hidden card-reading devices on ATMs throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Florida, and elsewhere, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced.

Dinu Horvat, 28, was convicted on four counts of a superseding indictment – conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess 15 or more counterfeit access devices, and conspiracy to possess access device-making equipment – following a one-week trial before U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark federal court. The jury deliberated about two hours before returning the verdict.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial: Horvat was a high-level member of an extensive ATM skimming scheme organized by Marius Vintila, 31, who previously pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges.

The scheme defrauded Citibank, TD Bank, Wells Fargo, and multiple other financial institutions out of at least $5 million and affected thousands of bank customers. Vintila and defendant Bogdan Radu, 30, designed and constructed sophisticated card-reader devices and pinhole camera panels capable of reading and storing customers’ bank account information and personal identification numbers.

Horvat and his partners then secretly installed the card-reader devices and the pinhole cameras panels onto bank ATMs and removed them a few days later after they had recorded customer bank account information as customers performed routine bank transactions at ATMs.

The stolen data was used to create thousands of false and fraudulent ATM cards, which Horvat and others used to withdraw millions of dollars from customers’ bank accounts. Horvat also recruited others to participate in the scheme, including Enes Causevic, Mirel Hadzalic, and Luis Franco, all of whom have previously pleaded guilty.

The ATM skimming operation in which Horvat participated is one of the largest ever uncovered by law enforcement. To date, 16 individuals, including Vintila, have been charged in connection with the scheme. Twelve of those 16 have pleaded guilty.

In addition to Vintila, Radu, who was charged separately, pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft in February 2014. Enes Causevic, 24, Marius Cotiga, 35, Constantin Ginga, 53, Dezso Gyapias, 29, Ioan Leusca, 30, Constantin Pendus, 30, and Emil Revesz, 30, all charged separately from Horvat, participated in the scheme by installing or removing the devices, and by subsequently using the fraudulent ATM cards to withdraw cash from compromised bank accounts.

Florin Apetrei, 18, Luis Franco, 23, and Mirel Hadzalic, 24, participated in the scheme by using the fraudulent ATM cards to withdraw cash. Causevic, Cotiga, Ginga, Gyapias, Leusca, and Revesz all pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft charges. Apetrei, Cotiga, Pendus, Franco, and Hadzalic pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy.

For their roles in the scheme, Martini sentenced Ginga, Gyapias, and Leusca each to 57 months in prison. Franco and Pendus received sentences of 33 months in prison each. Hadzalic received a sentence of 34 months in prison. Apetrei received a sentence of 24 months in prison. Vintila, Causevic, Cotiga, Radu, and Revesz are pending sentencing.

Charges remain pending on three additional members of the conspiracy who were charged by indictment on April 16, 2014: Alin Dumitru Carabus, 40, Ionut Vasile Ciurba-Stana, a/k/a “Ciorba,” 28, and Robert Eduard Mate, a/k/a “Chioru,” 29, were each charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to possess 15 or more access devices, and possession of 15 or more access devices. Carabus, Ciurba-Stana, and Mate were all apprehended in Spain, and requests for extradition to the United States are pending.

The bank fraud conspiracy charge for which Horvat was convicted carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory, consecutive penalty of two years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to possess 15 or more counterfeit access devices carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The conspiracy to possess access device-making equipment carries a maximum penalty of seven and one-half years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for June 23.