ALBANY, NEW YORK – Gheorghe Cirstea, age 33, and a citizen of Romania, was sentenced today to 27 months in prison for conspiring to steal bank customers’ account information and personal identification numbers (PINs) by using skimming devices that he secretly installed on bank ATMs in the Capital Region from August through October 2015.
The announcement was made by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith and James N. Hendricks, Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On March 30, 2018, Cirstea was arrested on an international arrest warrant while travelling through Bogota, Colombia. On October 19, 2018, Cirstea was formally extradited by Colombian authorities to the Northern District of New York, and he has remained in custody since then.
As part of his guilty plea on August 8, 2019, Cirstea admitted that from August 30, 2015 through October 24, 2015, he and co-conspirator Ilie Sitariu used skimming devices and pinhole cameras to secretly capture the account numbers and PINs of customers who used ATMs at First Niagara Bank, Trustco Bank, and Berkshire Bank branches in Chatham, New York, Delmar, New York, and Great Barrington, Massachusetts, respectively. The skimming devices captured the information encoded on the magnetic strips of customers’ bank debit cards, while the pinhole cameras allowed the defendants to record the PINs used by the customers. The conspirators then used the information to steal approximately $127,000 from the customers’ accounts by making withdrawals at ATMs in New York City.
Sitariu, who was arrested in September 2015, pled guilty on November 22, 2016, and was sentenced to 48 months in prison by Senior United States District Judge Lawrence E. Kahn.
Judge Kahn also ordered that Cirstea pay $127,389 in restitution to the three banks whose customers’ account information was skimmed and used to make unauthorized withdrawals.
This case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the New York State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emmet O’Hanlon.