ROANOKE, Va. (WRIC) — A Romanian man pleaded guilty to bank fraud in a Virginia court on September 8, in a case of high-tech identity theft that affected customers at several banks.
Catalin Puscasu entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, but an indictment filed against him in 2021 details 24 separate charges in a scheme that saw Puscasu and his co-conspirators steal bank information from 7 banks over the course of just three months.
Puscasu, a Romanian national, arrived in the United States in the Fall of 2018. Once he arrived in the states, Puscasu rented an apartment in Roanoke, which became the center of their operations in Virginia.
Puscasu and his primary accomplice, Marius Catalui, then installed skimming devices on ATMs at several nearby banks, including ValleyStar Credit Union, the Bank of the James and he Farmer’s Bank of Appomattox. These devices, attached to card readers, allowed him to collect the information on cards used at the ATM and copy it onto blanks, creating clones of the customers’ cards.
They also installed miniature cameras on the ATM to capture customers entering their PINs, which they then used to withdraw money from the victims’ accounts. What Puscasu didn’t count on, however, was that he was also being watched.
Puscasu was ultimately identified using surveillance footage from four of the banks that were struck.
“Puscasu and/or Catalui were observed tampering with ATMs as they inserted the skimming devices,” the court documents read. “From additional bank video surveillance, they were later observed withdrawing funds from the accounts of customers who had used the compromised ATMs.”
According to Puscasu’s plea agreement, in total, the scheme netted them over $250,000 in ill-gotten cash.
However, Puscasu wasn’t initially caught in Virginia. Instead, he and his co-conspirators relocated their operation to Michigan in late February 2019, where he was promptly arrested for running a similar scheme and served 3 years in federal prison.
Puscasu now faces a similar sentence here, with prosecutors writing that a sentence of between 18 and 37 months is possible. He may also be required to pay restitution to his victims.