BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Police have in custody a man who they say was part of an organized ring that committed multiple skimming and credit card cloning schemes throughout Southern Louisiana. One financial institution claims $100,000 in losses due to the scheme.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office has in custody 27-year-old Costinel Matei, of Memphis, on the charge of violating the anti-skimming act. Matei was arrested back in December 2017, along with five others, after secret service agents raided a hotel in Memphis. Upon arrest, agents discovered Matei and one other had warrants throughout south Louisiana.
According to EBRSO, in December of 2017, a resident of Baton Rouge reported his bank card had been cloned and used to make unauthorized withdrawals totaling $1,400 plus ATM fees. The male victim told authorities the withdrawals took place in Baton Rouge, Harvey, Gonzales, and Lafayette. He said the last place he had used his card was a credit union located in the 12500 block of Perkins Rd.
During the course of the investigation, deputies contacted the credit union and were able to obtain a surveillance footage showing a male, later identified as Matei, and female, later identified as 30-year-old Daniela-Stefania Ianev, placing a skimming device on a machine on Dec. 3.
Deputies forwarded the photos to other agencies in South Louisiana. They learn that the St. Tammy and St. John the Baptist Sheriff's Offices were also investigating skimming devices with footage showing Matei and Ianev.
According to the probable cause report, detectives believed the two are Romanian and were driving a gold Toyota minivan. There were also at least two other males, one later being identified as 24-year-old Marius Daniel Nuta, that accompanied the pair, authorities say.
On Dec. 21, Ianev and Nuta were arrested in Gonzales while Matei and another man avoided being captured by fleeing the area, authorities say. The two were found with tools for placing and removing skimmers, $4,500 in $20 bills, and 100 gift cards or reloadable debit cards.
Authorities say they were able to learn of Matei's locations based on jail phone information for Ianev and Nuta. That's when, authorities say, a joint task force made up of the Secret Service was able to locate and identify Matei along with others in Memphis.
According to the probable cause report, additional ATM footage was obtained by authorities on Jan. 3 from a financial institution showing a black Chevy rental car, from Harvey, La, with one of the suspects using a "test card" at multiple ATMs in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
Authorities say it appears Matei along with the other suspects, in this case, acted as an organized ring committing multiple skimming and cloning schemes throughout southern Louisiana. As of Jan. 4, there are at least 290 known fraudulent transactions in the Baton Rouge area during the month of Dec. 2017, deputies say.
A credit union in Laplace says their loss is at least $35,000 and the credit union on Perkins says their current loss is $100,000. The credit union also told authorities the amount lost could increase as the investigation continues.
Several agencies worked on this case, including the Gonzales Police Department, the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office, the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office, the Kenner Police Department, and Louisiana State Police.