People beware. The recent arrest of three Romanian nationals believed to be members of a syndicate engaged in ATM skimming, may just be the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Deputy mayor on police matters and Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak believes that there are more ATM skimmers on the loose, waiting to prey on their next unsuspecting victims.
Ionut Alexandru Mitrache, Costel Ion and Razvan Aurelian Stancu, who were arrested by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 last Friday, still have other cohorts which may include not just fellow Romanians but local contacts as well.
“We thank the NBI for their fast investigation and arrest. But they need to investigate further. I think this is a bigger syndicate,” Tumulak warned.
While he welcomed the arrest of the three Romanians, Tumulak said that none of them matched the features of a suspect whom he saw in another closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage last year.
Last November, Tumulak, who was also a victim of skimming, reviewed several CCTV footage from an establishment along Barangay Banilad.
The videos showed a man, believed to be also Romanian, making unauthorized withdrawals from Tumulak’s bank account using different ATMs.
The unauthorized withdrawals from Tumulak’s Land Bank of the Philippines account began in August, but it was only in November when he noticed it and started his own investigation on the matter.
“It was also a foreign national, a Romanian also. But he is not among those arrested. He is still outside and has not been caught. But I think they’re in the same group,” he said.
Tumulak urged the NBI to coordinate with the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), Bureau of Immigration (BI) 7, the Cebu Bankers Club (CBA) and technical experts of the different banks to further investigate the cases.
As this developed, City Hall will be cracking down on banks that have failed to provide footage taken from their CCTV cameras to investigators.
Tumulak lamented that the probe into the activities of skimmers is being slowed down by the lack of cooperation from banks which continue to ignore their requests for CCTV footage despite formal letters sent to the banks last year.
“This week, we will focus on this. I will meet with the city legal office and the city treasurer’s office (CTO). There is an ordinance that mandates the turning over of CCTV footage for police investigations,” he said.
Tumulak was referring to Cebu City Ordinance No. 2381 which requires all establishments in the city to install CCTV cameras in their premises.
Authored by Councilor Sisinio Andales and approved by the Cebu City Council in January 2014, the ordinance’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were approved by then Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella in January 2016 and later published in newspapers on April 14, 2016.
The Business Permit and Licensing Office (BPLO) of the CTO has been designated to implement the ordinance.
Aside from installing CCTV cameras, establishments in Cebu City are mandated to keep all their surveillance tapes for at least 30 days. After which, they can choose to discard the tapes or continue to keep it. They are, however, required to turn over the tapes to the police or other law enforcement agencies in case a crime happens within the vicinity.
Violators will be fined P2,000 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense and P5,000 for the third offense including closure of the business establishment.
Establishments covered by the ordinance include banks, money changers, lending institutions, jewelry and pawnshops, gas stations, internet shops, private schools, factories, privately-owned wet and dry markets, hotels, motels, inns, travel agencies, coffee shops, junk shops, terminals, retail establishments, shopping malls, private-owned paid parking lots and private hospitals.