MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that two men pleaded guilty today to a scam involving the use of hidden cameras and bank card “skimmers” at commuter rail ticket vending machines to gather bank card information to steal money from riders’ accounts.
Dorin Husa, 37, of Elmhurst, and Niculae Petre, 45, also of Elmhurst, each pleaded guilty before Nassau County Court Judge Robert Spergel to one count of Criminal Possession of Forgery Devices (a D felony).
Prosecutors are requesting sentence of 1 year in jail for Husa and Petre, and the forfeiture of $7,000 in cash recovered from their Queens apartment. Both defendants are due back in court for sentencing on April 25.
“These defendants took a source of convenience for thousands of commuters and turned it into their own personal piggy bank,” DA Rice said. “Though my office remains committed to bringing these criminals to justice, it’s essential that people protect themselves by being alert at ticketing machines, covering their PIN numbers when using debit cards, using credit cards or cash whenever possible, reviewing account statements and credit reports regularly, and notifying the authorities immediately if they suspect identity theft.”
The case resulted from a joint investigation by DA Rice’s office, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police and the Nassau County Crimes Against Property Squad.
Husa and Petre were arrested on Oct. 29, 2013 after MTA detectives executed a court-ordered search warrant at their Elmhurst apartment and recovered materials used to manufacture credit card skimmers and cameras installed at Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Rail Road stations, as well as $7,000 in cash obtained using stolen bank information. The court-ordered search was conducted as part of an investigation stemming from the discovery on Oct. 16, 2014 of an unauthorized camera attached to a MTA Ticket Vending Machine at the Bayside LIRR station. An investigation by MTA Police led to the discovery of additional cameras and skimming devices manufactured by Husa and Petre at other LIRR stations in Nassau County, as well as Metro-North stations.
Two other co-defendants implicated in the scheme, Valer Zaharia, 38, of Kew Gardens, and his wife, Teodora Zaharia, 28, also of Kew Gardens, were arrested on Oct. 28, 2013 when theywere observed retrieving two skimmer devices and two hidden camerasfromTicket Vending Machines at the Sea Cliff LIRR station, not knowing that MTA Police had been monitoring the station for more than 72 hours.
MTA detectives later executed a court-ordered search warrant at the Zaharias’ apartment and recovered skimmer molds and pinhole cameras used to alter Ticket Vending Machines; lists of skimmed debit and credit card numbers from the Stewart Manor, Merillon Avenue, and Sea Cliff and other LIRR stations as well as numbers skimmed from Metro-North stations; thousands of stolen debit and credit card numbers from other sources; and $52,000 obtained using stolen bank card information.
Valer Zaharia is charged with Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree (a D felony) and Conspiracy in the 4th Degree (an E felony). Teodora Zaharia is charged with Grand Larceny in the 4th Degree (an E felony). The case against the Zaharias is still pending.
The total calculated financial loss due to this scheme is now over $70,000, with one financial institution, JPMorgan Chase, identifying in excess of $30,000 in customer losses so far.
Also charged in the scheme is Cezar Nastasa, who fled to the United Kingdom on Oct. 31, 2013, shortly after Husa, Petre and the Zaharias were arrested. Nastasa is charged with Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree, Conspiracy in the 4th Degree, five counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the 2nd Degree, two counts of Unlawful Possession of a Skimmer Device in the 2nd Degree, and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Forgery Device. There is a warrant for his arrest.
All five defendants are Romanian nationals. Two additional Romanian nationals who were not charged but being investigated as possible suspects also fled to the United Kingdom via Las Vegas on Nov. 6, 2013.
DA Rice’s office commended the cooperation of the MTA Police, the Nassau County Police Department Crimes Against Property Squad, the Long Island Fraud and Forgery Association, federal officials and numerous banks in this investigation.
Assistant District Attorney April Montgomery of DA Rice’s Economic Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the case. Husa is represented by Jake LaSala, Esq. Petre is represented by Anthony Como, Esq. The Zaharias are represented by Joseph Daniel, Esq. and Shawn Turck, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.