MINEOLA (PIX11) – Four people have been arrested in connection with a MTA ticket vending machine scam that compromised the bank accounts of at least one thousand commuters, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice announced Friday.
Cameras used to record people punching in their PIN numbers and card skimmers were discovered in ticket machines in Metro-North stations in Chappaqua and Westchester County, as well as Long Island Rail Road machines in Nassau and Queens counties.
Officers working in a joint operation between the MTA police, district attorney’s office and Nassau Police Department set up round-the-clock stakeouts and used ‘cyber-forensics’ to crack the case, Rice said.
On Monday, they got the break they were looking for when a husband and wife duo allegedly plucked two skimmer devices and two cameras from a ticket machine at the Sea Cliff LIRR station. Police arrested Valer Zaharia, 38, and his wife Teodora Zaharia, 27, at the scene.
The couple took police back to their apartment where they arrested two people they believe were involved in the operation. Police believe Nicuale Petre, 45, and Dorin Husa, 37, were the “technicians and managers” of the scam.
Officials called the Elmhurst apartment a “virtual factory for creating materials to steal bank card information and use it to steal money.” Along with the stolen numbers, they had a cameras, skimmers, plastic molds, memory cards, flash drives, cash and credit cards. At least one bank has already reported the loss of thousands of dollars from at least 50 different accounts.
Both Zaharias are facing charges of identity theft, possession of forgery devices and the unlawful possession of a skimmer device. They face a maximum sentence of seven years if convicted.
Petre and Husa face charges of possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices and unlawful possession of personal identification information.
They also face seven years in prison if convicted.
All four people are Romanian nationals and also face deportation if convicted.