CARD FRAUD SUSPECTS
Two Romanians arrested for ‘harvesting’ ATM cash
Two more Romanian nationals were arrested after they were caught illegally withdrawing money from an automated teller machine (ATM) in barangay Tipolo, Mandaue City.
Stefania Mihaela Osman, 36, and Petro Ioan Uveges, 42, were arrested last Saturday by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Central Visayas (CIDG-7) who had put the two suspects under surveillance for a month and a half.
It was the second time that police nabbed foreigners suspected of being members of an international card fraud syndicate.
“Precisely, they are members of a syndicate. These two are considered schemers or harvesters. We are still digging deeper to determine how they get data for encryption in the cards they used,” said Supt. Marlon Tayaba, chief of CIDG-7.
They will be charged for violating the Access Devices Regulation Act or Republic Act 8484, which is bailable.
An access device refers to a card, such as ATM or credit card, that is used to obtain or transfer funds.
The suspects, who are being held at the CIDG-7 in Camp Sotero Cabahug, have lawyers representing them.
They refused to answer any queries from the media yesterday.
“I have nothing to say,” said Uveges.
Tayaba said there were three other cohorts in the area but they had left when the police arrived.
The syndicate has been allegedly operating for more than a year in the country.
Last September, Romanian national Gheorghe Adelin Stretcu was arrested and charged for trying to illegally withdraw cash using different customer reward cards with magnetic strips.
Tayaba said the two suspects and Stretcu know each other.
To make the arrest last Saturday, Tayaba said they coordinated with the bank that owned the ATM, the Mandaue City’s Intelligence Branch and Special Weapons and Tactics.
Confiscated from the suspects were Uveges’ driver’s license showing he is temporarily residing in Angeles City, Pampanga in Luzon, white Toyota Innova, two wallets, mobile phones, a luxury bag and several reward cards of department stores under Osman’s name.
At least 67 blue British Export cards were also recovered from their possession and three withdrawal slips of the bank indicating P10,000 each. Cash worth more than P50,000 was also recovered from their possession.
“These are not ordinary cards. Normally banks in the Philippines have a maximum allowable withdrawal of P50,000, but, using these cards, they can manage to withdraw at least P500,000 each card,”Tayaba said..
So as not to draw suspicion from the bank, the group allegedly operating in Cebu would only withdraw P10,000 each using the card. Most of their victims are in Europe.
“Accordingly these cards came from abroad. We have strong suspicion that the cloning (of the cards) is done here.
Information says that the head of the syndicate is a German,” said Tayaba.
Tayaba said they might have harvested a little in Cebu because several in their group have been arrested in Manila and most ATMs there are guarded by blue guards.
In September, Stretcu claimed that a friend had hacked European credit card accounts and transferred the data to the reward cards from a convenience store chain.
Stretcu said the syndicate he was working with chose the Philippines because it has “the weakest ATM security features in the world.”
More than 90 customer cards with magnetic strips were recovered from him.
Stretcu was able to post bail. Police yesterday said they didn’t know Stretcu’s whereabouts.
Tayaba said the two other Romanian nationals can also post bail.
“They can post bail anytime. They also have lawyers to defend them,” he said.
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