MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the sentencing today of a Queens man for his involvement in a scam involving the use of hidden cameras and bank card “skimmers” to steal money from commuters’ bank accounts and financial institutions.
Valer Zaharia, 38, of Kew Gardens, was sentenced today by Nassau County Court Judge Tammy Robbins to 2 to 6 years in prison. Zaharia pleaded guilty last month to Grand Larceny in the 3rd Degree (a D felony) and Conspiracy in the 4th Degree (an E felony), waived his right to appeal and agreed to forfeiture of $61,251.85 in cash found at the Queens apartment he shared with his wife and co-defendant, Teodora Zaharia, who was sentenced to 9 months in jail for the scheme last month.
“The couple that stole together will not be staying together for the next few years, as they pay for their crimes against the riders of the Long Island Rail Road” DA Rice said. “The Zaharias could have taken advantage of many honest opportunities there are to make a living here, but instead they chose to take advantage of hardworking people just trying to get to work.”
“Stopping identity theft is a top priority for the MTA Police and we are grateful that the Nassau County District Attorney’s office has carried out these prosecutions with equal vigor,” MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said. “We remind customers who use ticket machines to remain vigilant by always protecting their PIN when using a debit card and by reporting any suspicious behavior.”
The Zaharias were arrested on Oct. 28, 2013 when they were observed retrieving two skimmer devices and two hidden cameras from Ticket Vending Machines at the Sea Cliff LIRR station, not knowing that MTA Police had been monitoring the station for more than 72 hours.
Two other defendants involved in the scam, Dorin Husa, 37, of Elmhurst, and Niculae Petre, 45, also of Elmhurst, each pleaded guilty before Judge Spergel in March to Criminal Possession of Forgery Devices (a D felony), and are due to be sentenced later this week.
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 the defendants are recently arrived Romanian nationals.
Assistant District Attorney April Montgomery of DA Rice’s Economic Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the case. The Zaharias are represented by Joseph Daniel, Esq. and Shawn Turck, Esq. Husa is represented by Jake LaSala, Esq. Petre is represented by Anthony Como, Esq.