2 arrested in ATM 'skimming' operation used card readers, hidden cameras, Riverside police say

Rob McMillan Image
Saturday, November 18, 2023
Suspects arrested in ATM machine skimming operation in Riverside
Riverside police have arrested two suspects accused of skimming-using magnetic card readers and hidden cameras at several ATMs-to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside police have arrested two suspects accused of "skimming" -- using magnetic card readers and hidden cameras at several ATMs -- to steal thousands of dollars from unsuspecting victims.

One victim in Riverside said her entire bank account was cleaned out by these thieves, costing her $7,250.

"I kind of would expect it if it was at a gas station, but you're bold enough to do it at a bank," wondered the victim. "Who in the hell are these people? And how do they have access in broad daylight, and get away with it?"

The victim said she found out what happened when she tried to withdraw money from her account, and discovered it had been wiped clean.

"My nerves were shot, because I was thinking of all the things I can't do that I have to get done.

"I couldn't pay by car payment, couldn't pay my light bill, and I got 30 days late (fees) on my credit cards."

It happened at the drive-through ATM at the Bank of America at the intersection of Magnolia and Tyler in Riverside. The victim said the suspects made seven separate withdrawals for $1,000 each on consecutive days, then withdrawing the final $250 on the last day.

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The victim said she called the bank, but it took months for them to finally credit her the money.

"When I was talking to the bank representative, they told me they have 90 days to give a response. And I'm like I'm going to be homeless in 90 days. It was so much red tape and back and forth. Every thirty days they'd send me a denial letter."

The victim reported the theft to Riverside police, and detectives were able to obtain surveillance video from the Bank of America ATM at Magnolia and Tyler showing the suspect not only installing the skimming device but later withdrawing her money.

It took detectives several months, but they said while surveilling the bank on Wednesday, November 15th they caught two suspects matching the descriptions of the thieves caught on camera.

Police said inside the suspects' vehicle they found numerous access cards they would use to install cloned data from a skimmed card, as well as USB and skimmer devices used to capture victim card data, and a device with a pin-hole camera used to watch unsuspecting victims enter their PIN codes.

Nicolae Adrian Masu, 29, and George Daniel Mirica, 26, both of Santa Ana, were arrested for identity theft, transferring stolen identifying information, and conspiracy to defraud.

Since the case involves two victims, if convicted of identity theft each suspect faces a possible sentence exposure of 3 years, 8 months behind bars.

Detectives believe these suspects have been running this skimming operation throughout all of Southern California.

"They're in Riverside; they're in Eastvale; they're in Ventura; they're in LA; they're in Santa Ana; they're everywhere," said Officer Javier Cabrera. "And this is what they do. I wake up every morning and this is what I do for a living; that's what they do. They wake up and they destroy people's lives."

Police said both suspects posted bail less than 14 hours after they were arrested.

Detectives remind people that if their bank offers them the ability to use the "tap" feature to access their account at the ATM, it's likely a better way to complete a transaction since they won't be sliding their card in a magnetic strip reader that could be compromised by a skimmer.

Also, they urge people to protect their PIN codes by covering the number pad from both sides since suspects often use small pinhole cameras secretly placed on the sides of ATM machines to capture a person entering their PIN.