6 Foreign Nationals Charged in Massive, Multi-State ‘Skimming’ Operation

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
July 10, 2024US News
6 Foreign Nationals Charged in Massive, Multi-State ‘Skimming’ Operation
(Top L-R) Nicolas Longin Codreanu, Ionut Zamfir, Armando Ion Codreanu, (Bottom L-R) Isabela Ignat Codreanu, Mila Ciuciu, Robby Vicson Codreanu. (U.S. Attorney's Office District of Rhode Island)

A group of foreign nationals living in the country illegally have been charged in an alleged operation to defraud thousands of people through a skimming scheme that spanned multiple states, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Federal authorities have charged six people in a conspiracy to install skimming devices on automated teller machines (ATMs) and checkout point-of-sale units at retail stores, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s District of Rhode Island Office.

Federal prosecutors named the defendants as Nicolas Longin Cordreanu, 21, from Romania and Ireland; Ionut Zamfir, 37, of Romania; Armando Ion Cordeanu, 23, from Ireland; Isabela Ignat Codreanu, 23, from Romania; Mila Ciuciu, 20, from Romania; and Robby Vicson Codreanu, 20, from Great Britain.

All six individuals had been living in southern California.

The alleged conspirators used devices known to capture account information and personal identification numbers (PIN) when customers swipe their credit and debit cards at checkout terminals. The defendants allegedly stole their private information and withdrew as much as $300,000 from victims’ bank accounts. They used the stolen money on purchases at various retailers, prosecutors said.

“The scale, scope, and brazen nature of these defendants’ scheme to steal the financial account information of unsuspecting consumers and use it to help themselves to funds and property, as we have alleged in federal court, is staggering,” U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a statement.

Authorities first discovered the alleged operation in October 2023 when police in Bristol, Rhode Island launched an investigation into skimming devices found at a local bank branch.

Federal investigators later recovered skimming devices from more than two dozen locations of a major retailer in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York, according to the criminal complaint. The affidavit released by the U.S. Attorney’s office showed images captured by surveillance cameras of the individuals placing a skimming device at a Walmart self-checkout register.

“The complaint alleges these six individuals are members of an organization who defrauded thousands of residents of Rhode Island and beyond of their hard-earned money,” Homeland Security Investigations New England Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Krol said in a statement.

“The ATM and point of sale skimming equipment they used worked ​quickly and efficiently to ​steal credit card information, allowing them to clone and illegally access credit cards, bank accounts, and other financial accounts of unsuspecting victims,” he added.

It remains unclear if the six individuals have retained legal representation. All defendants have been charged separately. They face various charges, including conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Skimming scams have been on the rise across the nation. Nearly 1,600 skimming incidents were tracked last year, up from 1,100 incidents in 2022, according to data collected by Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO).