Darien arrests lead to federal indictments
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging three women with offenses related to their alleged participation in an ATM "skimming" scheme, according to a release issued by the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force.
The women were arrested in Darien on April 22.
The indictment was returned on May 12, and the three defendants were arraigned today (Tuesday) in Hartford federal court.
The indictment alleges that Sabrina Matache, 21, of Middle Village, N.Y., Laura Stiuca, 31, a citizen of Romania residing in Maspeth, N.Y., and Nadia Pasici, 48, a citizen of Romania residing in Middle Village, and others, conspired to install "skimming" devices on ATM machines, and on card-swipe access devices used by banks to control access to ATM lobby doors, at People's United Bank locations in Connecticut. The devices captured the information encoded on the magnetic strips of bank cards used by ATM customers.
The indictment further alleges that the co-conspirators placed devices on the ATMs that contained hidden pinhole cameras, which were positioned in such a way as to be able to record the personal identification numbers that bank customers keyed into the ATMs to gain access to their accounts. According to the statement, the co-conspirators are alleged to have used this stolen information to create counterfeit bank cards that allowed them to withdraw funds from the customers' accounts.
The indictment alleges that, in March and April 2010, Matache, Stiuca and/or Pasici used pin-capturing devices at an ATM located at a branch of People's United Bank in Cos Cob. The indictment further alleges that, between April 19 and April 22, Matache and Stiuca used stolen bank account information to conduct unauthorized ATM withdrawals from People's United Bank ATMs in Stamford, Greenwich and Darien.
According to the statement, through this scheme, the three defendants victimized individuals and financial institutions of at least $50,000.
Matache, Stiuca and Pasici were arrested last month by members of the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force at a branch of People's United Bank in Darien. At the time of the arrests, the three defendants allegedly possessed cash, several re-encoded gift cards containing stolen bank account information, handwritten notes with lists of stolen four-digit personal identification numbers, ATM skimming tools and other items used in the conspiracy.
The indictment charges Matache, Stiuca and Pasici each with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The indictment also charges Matache and Stiuca with four counts of bank fraud and four counts of aggravated identity theft.
The charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million, on each count. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years, which must be imposed consecutively to a sentence imposed on any other count of conviction.
Today, each of the three defendants appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Thomas P. Smith in Hartford and entered a plea of not guilty to the charges. Matache was released on a $100,000 bond secured by property. Stiuca was released on a $50,000 corporate surety bond into home confinement with electronic monitoring. Pasici is detained pending trial.
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force, which includes members of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Connecticut State Police and the Greenwich, Hartford, Manchester, New Haven and Shelton police departments. People's United Bank assisted the investigation.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan L. Wines.