Gheorghe Cirstea, 32, a Romanian national, pled guilty yesterday to an indictment charging him with conspiring to steal bank customers’ account information and personal identification numbers (PINs) by using skimming devices that were secretly installed on bank ATMs in the Capital Region.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and James Hendricks, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Albany Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The indictment was the basis for an international warrant for Cirstea’s arrest. On March 30, 2018, Cirstea was arrested on the warrant while travelling through Bogota, Colombia. On October 19, 2018, Cirstea was formally extradited by Colombian authorities to the Northern District of New York.
As part of his guilty plea, Cirstea admitted that from August 30, 2015 through October 24, 2015, he and co-conspirator Ilie Sitariu used skimming devices and pinhole cameras to secretly capture the account numbers and PINs of customers who used ATMs at First Niagara Bank, Trustco Bank, and Berkshire Bank in the capitol region of New York, and in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The skimming devices captured the information encoded on the magnetic strips of customers’ bank debit cards, while the pinhole cameras allowed the defendants to record the PINs used by the customers. The conspirators then used the information to steal approximately $127,000 from the customers’ accounts by making withdrawals at ATMs in New York City.
Sitariu, who was arrested on October 24, 2015, was sentenced to 48 months in prison by Senior United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn on May 10, 2017.
Cirstea faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to 3 years when he is sentenced on December 12, 2019. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute the defendant is charged with violating, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other factors.
This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the New York State Police, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emmet O’Hanlon.