Man in custody after allegedly participating in card skimming ring
BATON ROUGE - A 27-year-old Memphis man is in custody on the charge of violating the anti-skimming act.
Authorities say Costinel Matei was part of an organized ring that committed multiple skimming and credit card cloning crimes throughout south Louisiana. Matei was originally arrested back in December 2017 along with five other suspects.
An East Baton Rouge resident told law enforcement his debit card had been cloned and used to make unauthorized withdrawals totaling over $1,400. The money was withdrawn from ATMs in Baton Rouge, Harvey, Gonzales and Lafayette.
The victim said the last place he used his card was at a credit union located in the 12500 block of Perkins Road.
Authorities then obtained surveillance footage from the credit union, which showed a male and female placing a skimming device on the machine on Dec. 3, 2017, according to arrest records.
After the footage was released to other law enforcement agencies in south Louisiana, it was discovered that the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office and St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's Office were also investigating skimming devices placed on ATMs with surveillance video of the same two suspects, according to arrest records.
Detectives shared information that the suspects were believed to be Romanian and driving a gold Toyota minivan. The two were occasionally accompanied by at least two other males who typically wore baseball caps to help cover their faces.
On Dec. 21, 2017, the vehicle was located at a convenience store in Ascension Parish. Two suspects were located in the vehicle and were identified through Romanian passports and identification cards. At least two other suspects fled the area while the two others were being apprehended.
Each suspect refused to make any statement. Investigators in Ascension Parish then executed a search warrant on the vehicle and found tools for placing and removing skimmers, $4,500 in $20 bills and approximately 100 gift cards or reloadable debit cards - onto which information stolen from the skimmer could be encoded.
The Gonzales Police Department booked the suspects in the Ascension Parish Prison for the applicable charges.
Authorities were then able to locate additional suspects in Tennessee, including 27-year-old Costinel Matei, based on jail phone information for the two apprehended suspects.
A special joint task force made up of the Secret Service later located and identified Matei, along with others in Memphis, Tenn.
On Jan. 3, additional ATM footage was obtained by authorities from a financial institution. The video showed a black Chevy rental car with one of the suspects using a "test card" at multiple ATMs in Baton Rouge and surrounding areas.
According to authorities, it appears Matei, along with the other suspects, acted as an organized ring, committing multiple skimming and cloning schemes throughout the greater Baton Rouge area.
There are at least 290 known fraudulent transactions in the Baton Rouge area during the month of Dec. 2017, according to arrest records.
The credit union on Perkins says their current loss is at $100,000. A credit union in Laplace says their loss is at least $35,000, according to arrest records.