Federal authorities have arrested a Romanian man accused of playing a primary role in an ATM fraud racket.
According to the U.S. attorney’s office in New York, Laurentiu Bulat installed electronic skimming devices — which included card readers and cameras to record personal identification numbers — on at least 40 ATMs at HSBC bank branches in Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester County, N.Y.
Bulat and his unidentified co-conspirators eventually retrieved the devices, which recorded data that was used to create cloned cards and steal at least $1.5 million from customer accounts.
Bulat was arrested Thursday morning after video caught him installing the devices on two ATMs in Manhattan, prosecutors said. He was collared after he returned to the ATMs to fix the devices and was found to be in possession of a screwdriver.
Authorities charged Bulat, who has an expired U.S. visa, with one count of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to 60 years in prison, if convicted.
In November, three other accused skimmers — apparently part of another operation — were indicted in New York.
Skimming has become a preferred vector for bank fraud. A November 2010 from the Better Business Bureau said the technology is used to steal about $1 billion annually, and one in five people have fallen victim to such heists.