Romanian National Sentenced To Prison For ATM Skimming Fraud

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

LAS VEGAS – A Romanian citizen — who entered the U.S. illegally — was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon to 42 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for engaging in ATM skimming fraud scheme.

Marian Poenaru (21) pleaded guilty in April 2022 to one count of conspiracy to possess counterfeit and unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Poenaru and his co-conspirators installed and used skimmer devices and pinhole cameras at ATMs to capture users’ account information and PINs. The conspirators then re-encoded gift cards with the stolen bank information so they could make cash withdraws and purchases for their own personal benefit.

On April 25, 2021, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers arrested Poenaru. A search of his apartment uncovered more than 500 cards that were re-encoded. At least 300 of the counterfeit cards recovered were re-encoded with account information of debit cards issued by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), which were used to disburse unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. During a search of his apartment, law enforcement found a lab used both to create ATM skimming equipment as well as to manufacture counterfeit cards. Additionally, Poenaru admitted that his fraudulent activities in Las Vegas were committed after he and his co-conspirators relocated their fraudulent scheme from another state to evade law enforcement; evidence shows that from 2017 to 2021, Poenaru engaged in ATM skimming fraud across the country, including in Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Michigan, and Nevada. Poenaru is subject to deportation after the completion of his criminal sentence.

U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada and Special Agent In Charge Karon Ransom for the U.S. Secret Service made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Fang prosecuted the case.

In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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