Police: Romanian grouped linked to St. John ATM card-skimming

Published 7:49 am Friday, December 22, 2017

GONZALES — Two arrests and four suspects have been linked to a card-skimming ring that struck St. John the Baptist Parish and other locations in South Louisiana, authorities said.

The City of Gonzales Police Department announced Daniela-Stefania Ianev, 30, and Marius Daniel Nuta, 34, were arrested Thursday following cooperation from numerous local agencies, including the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives located the suspects’ vehicle in the parking lot of the Tanger Super Stop on West Highway 30 in Gonzales. Ianev and Nuta were located inside the vehicle, police said, adding additional suspects Nauris Matei, 34, and Cati Elinescu, 34, each from Romania, were inside the store and escaped on foot.

Gonzales police said Ianev is in the country illegally and Nuta is involved in pending immigration proceedings and was free on a $10,000 immigration bond.

An ATM skimming device is installed in LaPlace.

As of Friday morning, Ianev is charged with 57 counts of monetary instrument abuse, one count of access device fraud and as a fugitive from East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Nuta is charged with 57 counts of monetary instrument abuse and one count of access device fraud.

Additional charges are expected from additional agencies.

Gonzales police said the St. John Sheriff’s Office notified them Thursday the suspected card skimmers were traveling through the area in a beige Toyota Sienna within an unknown Louisiana temporary license plate.

Gonzales detectives, in conjunction with the St. John Sheriff’s Office, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, Kenner Police Department and Louisiana State Police, flooded the area looking for the suspects, leading to Thursday’s initial two arrests.

All of the suspects used the same address in Jacksonville, Fla.

According to the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office, the man pictured is believed to have placed an ATM skimming device at Louisiana Federal Credit Union in LaPlace.

A search warrant was executed on the vehicle and detectives recovered $4,664 in cash, mostly in $20 denominations. Also located were 57 types of gift cards, all encoded with account information from various banks.

Each card was labeled with a sticker containing a handwritten pin number and dollar amount.

St. John Sheriff Mike Tregre said the discovery of the operation this month at Louisiana Federal Credit Union’s Belle Terre branch in LaPlace was the first time the scam has been pulled locally.

Officers said the skimming device, which transmits cardholder data from the magnetic stripe, was placed inside the ATM at 9:33 p.m. Dec. 1 and then uninstalled by the thieves at 7:06 p.m. Dec. 3.

“It’s a device that is very well concealed where you stick your card into the ATM,” Tregre said earlier this month. “You would have to be paying very close attention (to notice). It’s something that easily adapts to the opening. You wouldn’t know that unless you had a trained eye for it.”

The woman pictured is believed to have placed an ATM skimming device at Louisiana Federal Credit Union in LaPlace, police said.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office released surveillance photographs of two suspects believed responsible for the early-December scam. It is unknown if the suspects are the two people pictured in the surveillance photographs.

Louisiana Federal Credit Union Vice President of Operations Jill Zeringue said the credit union launched a full investigation as soon as members started reporting unauthorized ATM transactions.

“When we were able to isolate the transaction times, we pulled video which revealed the skimmer being installed,” Zeringue said.

The St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office urges those who may have used the targeted ATM to check their statements for unauthorized withdrawals. If they have been victimized, contact the Sheriff’s Office to file a police report, as well as report the information to the bank.