STUDIO CITY—Two suspects have been arrested for installing a number of ATM skimming devices across Los Angeles and using the stolen account data to create faux credits cards and withdraw money from ATMs throughout the county.
Ferenc Szekely, 42, of Las Vegas, NV and Alexsandru Barbu, 54, of Studio City, CA were arrested in Torrance on Monday, August 29, for their alleged involvement in ATM skimming scams at the US Bank branchs, located at 1759 W. Olive Ave. and 4350 Pacific Coast Highway.
On August 29, an employee from the US Bank location at 4350 Pacific Coast Highway in Torrance alerted police that a skimmer had been installed in one of the branch’s ATM’s; upon responding, police learned the suspects from the ATM footage matched the suspects from the Burbank incidents.
The suspects would install the skimmer early each morning, then return to collect their equipment in the evening—so police knew they’d be back at night. Burbank police detectives set up surveillance at the bank and at approximately 11 p.m. on Tuesday, August 30, the same suspects seen on ATM footage approached the machine that had the skimmer installed.
Detectives approached the suspects and placed them under arrest. They were booked at the Burbank City Jail on suspicion of theft and commercial burglary. The skimmer and a pinhole camera were recovered from the ATM machine.
The skimmers were installed, then used to scan and store credit and debit information on three separate days between August 14 and August 29. The accumulated loss between US Bank and its customers is approximately $85,000. Police logged another $233,000 of declined transactions, according to reports.
“The suspects used the stolen account information and created ‘cloned’ ATM cards,” said Burbank Police Sgt. Claudio Losacco in a statement. “The suspects withdrew cash from several ATMs around Los Angeles County.”
Both men are being charged with one felony count of possession of multiple personal identifying information and five counts of second-degree commercial burglary; if convicted, the two face a maximum sentence of up to 6 years and 4 months behind bars.
Both suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges and made the first courtroom appearance on Thursday, September 4. They are due back in a Burbank courtroom on September 22. Szekely is being held without bail and Barbu is being held in lieu of a $150,000 bail.
“It appears these same suspects are likely responsible for similar crimes at other US Bank branches within Los Angeles County, with estimated losses and declined transactions exceeding $500,000,” Losacco said. “Burbank police detectives are working with investigators with other law enforcement agencies to connect Szekely and Barbu to these additional crimes.”
Burbank police are encouraging people to be vigilant during transactions at ATMs and gas pumps and to look out for altered devices; they’re also urging residents to monitor their bank account statements for any unauthorized charges.