Romanian nationals busted for ATM skimming scheme that involved more than 600 Queens residents: Feds

Howard Beach
Five Romanian nationals living in Queens were arrested Thursday and criminally charged hours later in Brooklyn federal court for allegedly skimming ATMs across the borough to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from more than 600 victims, according to federal prosecutors.
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The NYPD and federal agents arrested five Romanian nationals living in Queens on Thursday for engaging in a sophisticated ATM skimming operation that involved the theft of bank account information and PIN numbers from more than 600 unsuspecting bank customers from across the borough.

The five men were named in an indictment that was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging them with fraud and aggravated identity theft following a long-term investigation by the NYPD, FBI and the Secret Service.

The five defendants — Elvis Dan Atomei, 34, Dan Adrian Agaffitel, 25, Ioan-Anton Gherasim, 38, Bobi Borcea, 49, and Razvan Vicol, 36 — allegedly installed devices and cameras on ATMs in various Queens locations to execute the fraud scheme between May 2022 and February 2023, according to federal prosecutors. The devices and cameras captured victim account information and personal identification numbers (PINs), with the information and data transferred onto counterfeit debit cards, which the gang used to make purchases and withdraw cash. The defendants, according to the charges, compromised more than 600 victim accounts and stole hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“As alleged, the defendants engaged in a sophisticated scheme by installing cameras and devices in ATM card slots to surreptitiously steal victim bank account information and use that stolen information to cash out for their own personal gain,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “The arrests today demonstrate that this office will continue to investigate and prosecute fraudulent activity compromising victims’ financial safety and security.”

According to the indictment, the five men committed the theft in two phases. The first phase involved installing deep-insert skim devices in the ATMs and using hidden cameras to capture the victims’ corresponding PINs and account information. The second phase saw the men make purchases and cash withdrawals.

“The defendants’ concerted efforts to conceal this fraudulent activity allowed the scam to plague the community for almost a year, highlighting the pervasive nature of criminal financial schemes,” FBI Assistant Agent-in-Charge James Smith said.

According to court documents, at the time of the arrest of Ioan-Anton Gherasim, law enforcement agents were conducting a sweep in a bedroom in his apartment where they found a workstation with multiple tools, including those used to insert skimming devices into an ATM card slot and fix skimming devices and pinhole cameras. It is unclear what led to the sweep.

Gherasin and Atomei engaged in a cash-out transaction in December 2023 at a Capital One ATM at 82nd Street and 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights as one of many examples described in the detention memo. According to law enforcement records, Atomei was convicted of similar crimes in Germany in 2007, Hungary in 2014, and most recently in the Czech Republic in 2016.

“The defendants allegedly targeted hundreds of victims, exploiting the trust in routine elements of our financial systems and stealing thousands from their hard-earned savings,” U.S. Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick Feaney said.

The five defendants were arraigned Thursday in Brooklyn federal court and ordered detained.

“Today’s indictment underscores the importance of investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies working together to protect the financial well-being of good, hard-working New Yorkers,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “I commend our partners at the FBI, the Secret Service, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York for their dedication to our shared public safety mission.”