BUFFALO, N.Y.-Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Nicolae Sarbu, of Romania, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. The bank fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year sentence to be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. In addition, co-defendant Marinela Unguru-Ducila, also of Romania, pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony which is punishable by a maximum of three years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marie P. Grisanti, who is handling the case, stated that between August, 2015, and November, 2015, Sarbu conspired with Unguru-Ducila and others to execute a scheme to defraud Bank of America. The defendants used skimming devices and cameras on 10 occasions at automated teller machines (ATM’s) in the Buffalo and Rochester areas and in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Bank account information and personal identification numbers (PIN’s) were recorded without the true account holder’s knowledge or authorization and then used to make unauthorized withdrawals of cash from various ATM’s in the Western District of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. A skimmer is a device used to unlawfully record bank account information from a customer’s debit card when the card is inserted into an ATM. Defendant Sarbu also encoded the bank account information obtained by the skimmers onto magnetic strips on blank plastic cards and gift cards. Unguru-Ducila was present with Sarbu when he installed skimmers at multiple banks in North Tonawanda, NY and West Seneca, NY and failed to notify authorities about this felony crime.
The total loss suffered by Bank of America as a result of this fraudulent activity was $183,120.54.
The pleas are the result of an investigation by immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland security investigations, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly.
Sarbu and Unguru-Ducila are scheduled to be sentenced on May 17, 2017, at 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. respectively, both before Judge Arcara.