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Financial Crimes

Conspirator in ATM skimming scheme pleads guilty

Conspirators operated on the Maryland Eastern Shore and elsewhere

BALTIMORE — A Maryland resident pleaded guilty March 29 to conspiracy to commit access device fraud in connection with a scheme to use skimming devices to obtain debit and credit card account numbers and personal identification numbers, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the United States Secret Service (USSS), the Cambridge Police Department and the Wicomico County Sheriff's Office.

Serghei Rotaru, 22, a citizen of Moldova temporarily residing in Salisbury, Md., faces a maximum sentence of 7 ½ years in prison at his sentencing May 11 at 3:00 p.m.

According to Rotaru's plea, on Dec. 16, 2011, Rotaru was questioned after a Cambridge Police Officer saw him walking away from a bank ATM where he had just used a counterfeit access device, that is, a Walmart gift card encoded with stolen account information, to make unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts of customers, withdrawing $800. Officers found the cash and a Walmart gift card with a PIN written on a piece of paper taped to the card in Rotaru's possession. Rotaru also possessed multiple other gift cards encoded with stolen account information that he left at the location where officers questioned him.

On Jan. 19 in furtherance of the conspiracy, co-defendant Pavel Rosca, 24, rented a car at the airport in Salisbury and added Serghei Rotaru as a driver for the vehicle in the rental agreement. Rosca and Rotaru then traveled to the state of Georgia where they met up with an additional co-conspirator. During their stay in Georgia, the co-conspirators traveled to various banks in Georgia and also to a storage facility containing equipment used for ATM skimming, including Walmart gift cards, a magnetic strip card reader and assorted computer equipment.

Between January 19 and January 21, Rotaru, Rosca, and a third co-conspirator returned from Georgia to Maryland with ATM skimming devices and with approximately $21,080 in proceeds from skimming activity. On January 21, the car rented by Rosca and driven by Rotaru was pulled over by Wicomico County Sheriff's Office officers. During the traffic stop and a subsequent inventory search of the vehicle, officers located three ATM skimming devices and the cash. Officers also located the rental agreement for the storage facility located in Smyrna, Ga., that contained the skimming equipment.

Pavel Rosca, also a Moldovan citizen residing in Salisbury, previously pleaded guilty to the same charge for his role in the conspiracy. His sentencing is May 10 at 3:00 p.m.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys P. Michael Cunningham and Kristi N. O'Malley.