SPRINGFIELD, MO (STL.News) – A Romanian national, who was arrested at a bank ATM, pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to charges related to her role in a skimming operating that illegally stole credit and debit card information from bank ATMs.
Loredana Baceanu, 31, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to possessing counterfeit and unauthorized access devices.
Bank officials at Central Bank of the Ozarks in Springfield, Missouri, notified law enforcement on October 12, 2018, of suspicious activity that had occurred at an ATM. The bank’s monitoring software had alerted them to the presence of a skimming device – a small electronic device used to steal credit card information – being placed on their ATM. When a person swipes a credit or debit card through a machine on which a skimmer is attached, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic stripe. The stripe contains the credit card number and expiration date and the credit card holder’s full name. Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card or gift card.
On Oct. 23, 2018, bank officials at Southern Bank discovered unidentified individuals targeting four different ATM locations, withdrawing money from multiple accounts. Bank officials stated that they believed these suspects were using stacks of re-encoded credit cards to facilitate the theft of funds from compromised credit and debit card accounts. Bank officials identified suspect photos at four different ATM locations in Springfield and Nixa, Missouri.
The Nixa branch manager was in the process of filing a police report on October 23, 2018, when Baceanu returned to that branch’s ATM. The Nixa police officer who was taking the report returned to his patrol vehicle and initiated a traffic stop on Baceanu’s vehicle in the parking lot of the bank. Baceanu, who was a passenger in the vehicle, had 49 gift card/credit cards in a concealed pocket within an undergarment she was wearing and $880 concealed in her bra. A micro SD media storage card and a Florida identification card fell from somewhere within Baceanu’s shirt to the ground.
Upon using a card reader, law enforcement learned that the magnetic stripes on all 49 generic gift cards had been re-encoded and counterfeited with different account numbers not original to the gift card. The data on the Micro SD card was the raw data recovered from skimming devices.
Under federal statutes, Baceanu is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.