Skimming Scam Slams CaliforniaCUs

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - (02/01/06) -- More than two dozen credit unionsand banks were victimized by a debit card 'skimming' scheme withwhich a criminal gang of Rumanian immigrants manufactured phonycards and used them to withdraw hundreds of thousands of dollars atcasinos in northern California, law enforcement officials chargedthis week. The gang apparently attached the skimming devices to gaspumps at area Arco stations, then used PINs obtained from theskimmers to manufacture their own debit cards, according to Det.Jim Hudson, of the Placer County Sheriff's Department. The schemewas traced to Thunder Valley Casino in Linda, Calif., where victimssaid they had been charged for unauthorized transactions. Fivesuspects were arrested when authorities staked out the casino andthe suspects were all carrying bogus debit cards. The gang had usedphony cards to try make as much as $240,000 in ATM withdrawals atthe Thunder Valley and succeeded in withdrawing $110,000, Hudsonsaid. But the gang is believed to have hit most or all of the 10casinos in northern California. "We have identified eight differentlocations, so far," Hudson told The Credit Union Journal,estimating as much as $500,000 may have been stolen through thescheme. Alleged ringleaders Claudiu Hotea, 34, and EmanuelMoldoveanu, both Rumanian citizens, were arrested Jan. 24 andcharged with burglary, conspiracy and possession of forged accesscards. Among the victims were members of: The Golden 1 CU, SAFE CU,Travis CU, Technology CU, San Mateo CU, Sierra Central CU, Star OneCU, Valley CU, Sacramento CU and Navy FCU.

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