Feds Charge Two Arrested in Casper With Credit Card Fraud
Two men arrested recently in Casper in a credit card fraud scheme that stole more then $60,000 now have been charged in federal court, according to a criminal complaint.
The Wyoming U.S. Attorney's Office alleges Ionut Manea and Vasile Florian Grutoiu -- Romanian citizens legally in the United States -- would obtain account numbers issued by financial institutions without the knowledge or consent of the legitimate holders of the accounts, according to an affidavit by a U.S. Secret Service agent.
Manea and/or Grutoiu would use a card reader/writer to encode the fraudulently obtained account numbers on the magnetic strips of gift cards and then use the gift cards to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines in Wyoming, according to the affidavit.
Manea, 35, was charged with using an unauthorized access device, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, and access device fraud conspiracy punishable by up to five years imprisonment. There also is an immigration hold from Interpol.
Grutoiu, 37, -- also known as Florian Grutoiu and Michael Voss -- was charged with possession of 15 or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, and access device fraud conspiracy.
They are in custody in the Natrona County Detention Center.
The Secret Service agent and the charging documents from the Casper Police Department say the case began Nov. 27 when a manager at the west side Jonah Bank contacted the Casper Police Department.
The bank's ATM, which was loaded with $25,000 in cash before the Thanksgiving Day weekend, was empty and was accessed between midnight through 6 p.m. five days earlier. There were 70 different transactions by 17 different cards from the Desert Federal Credit Union in Arizona, and $19,600 was removed.
Video surveillance showed two men making the transactions.
On Dec. 6, police received another report from Jonah Bank regarding fraudulent activity on Dec. 1 and Dec. 2. Two men had again used 17 different account numbers to withdraw $15,700 in cash.
The next day, a detective notified regional financial institutions of the activity and asked for assistance in identifying the two suspects. A representative from the Arizona credit union said the two men had also tried to take money from an ATM at Reliant Federal Credit Union on the night of Dec. 6. All three attempts to withdraw money were declined.
Another detective identified a suspect vehicle from video surveillance footage and located the vehicle in the parking lot of Candlewood Suites in Casper. There, he made contact with one of the suspects who was staying in a room that had been rented by Voss.
The men identified themselves as Manea and Voss. They were both interviewed at the Casper Police Department. Manea was found to have been in possession of $800 in twenty-dollar bills. Voss had $120 in twenty-dollar bills on his person.
Inside the hotel room, detectives found the keys to two vehicles as well as a magnetic stripe reader/encoder, four cell phones, two laptops, $2,900 in twenty-dollar bills, thirty Visa or Mastercard gift cards that had magnetic stripes and four-digit codes handwritten on the backs, a Romanian passport belonging to Manea and a Danish passport in Voss's name.
The Arizona credit union told a detective that their clients' credit card numbers had been used at ATMs in Laramie, Rock Springs and Casper from Nov. 16 through Dec. 6 in a total of 352 transactions.
The suspects had taken a combined $61,052, though they had attempted to withdraw $110,471.
In Natrona County, 140 transactions were made or attempted. Police note that the numbers reflect only charges made on the Arizona accounts, and only the charges made in Wyoming.
Casper police believe the Arizona credit union clients' card numbers were likely compromised via a "skimming" device placed at fuel pumps at a known chain of gas stations in the Phoenix, Ariz., area.
Police note that in Natrona County, Voss and Manea made over 70 fraudulent ATM transactions since Nov. 21 and took at least $35,000, though that number is likely to increase in both Natrona County and across multiple states as the investigation continues.
On Dec. 11, a Casper police detective was contacted by an agent with Homeland Security Investigations who found Grutoiu's fingerprints were on record and matched those of the name of Michael Voss that he gave police.