ATM skimmers found in RF, Hudson and surrounding area
A Romanian teen suspected to be part of a family crime ring is facing four felony charges in St. Croix County Circuit Court for his role in an ATM skimming scheme that bilked WESTConsin bank customers out of more than $100,000 in 2020.
Francisco Miclescu, 18, Anaheim, Calif., posted a $10,000 signature bond Nov. 17 on four felony counts, including improperly use credit card scanning device, fraud against financial institution (exceeds $100,000), identity theft – financial gain and theft from a financial institution (value exceeds $100,000). If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison and/or up to $50,000 in fines.
According to the complaint: Between March 13 and April 5, 2020, WESTconsin Credit Union reported 256 vic-
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tims who had had their bank accounts fraudulently accessed via a deep well card insert skimmer, located in the exterior ATM’s card reader at the Hudson branch on Maxwell Drive. Members had $116,337.70 fraudulently removed from their accounts. Victims resided in Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, Hammond, Baldwin, Roberts, Somerset and Woodville. Additional cases were identified in Menomonie, Barron and Amery.
WESTconsin supplied ATM video to investigators, which showed suspects whose photos were later compared to photos on file with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Crime Analyst Lee Blakelock of Northumbria, United Kingdom Police Department, who has an active file on Romanian Nationals conducting fraud in the United States. Suspect identities were also verified by comparing them to driver's licenses and public Facebook pages.
What follows is a confusing, winding trail of a group of Romanian nationals who, using aliases, use and pay for rental cars while traveling the country installing ATM skimmer devices. Investigators followed that trail from Baltimore to the Twin Cities to western Wisconsin, where video footage caught members of the group at numerous ATM locations in March and April 2020.
On March 16, 2020, security footage from a Maple Grove, Minn., Walmart, showed four men later identified as Marius Chiciu, Robert Miclescu, Petre Iortoman and Maldini Miclesu, on camera. They had brought a car in for tire repairs.
The next day, on March 17, 2020, Prescott police reported to Heart Hands & Mind Daycare (1400 N. Acres Road, Prescott), where a maroon van with Florida plates was parked and appeared to be watching the WESTConsin ATM lane across the street. The vehicle’s occupant provided a fake Nevada ID card with the name Jonathan Avem. When police called his bluff, he saidd his name was Morientes Iortoman and indicated he was a 15-year-old juvenile from Romania. He told police 'Calvin Taylor' had rented the van he was driving. Calvin Taylor turned out to be an oft-used alias of group members.
The man who had identified himself as Morientes Iortoman was transported to the Prescott PD, where his fingerprints were taken. Police required an adult to pick him up.
A short time later, a subject identified as Robert Miclescu, then 20, Baltimore, arrived at Prescott PD to pick up Iortoman. Both men said they were staying with family in Minneapolis.
On April 20, 2020, Homeland Security in the United Kingdom ran the photo of the man who had identified himself as Morientes Iortoman through their facial recognition system at the request of Northumbria Police Department (UK). The results revealed his true identity to be Petre Patrian Iortoman, 18, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (ICE) forensic laboratory.
On April 6, 2020, a Prescott police officer conducted a followup investigation at 4123 E. 44th St., Minneapolis, where the two men had said they were staying with family, because they were seen on ATM security footage at Prescott’s WESTconsin Credit Union location conducting ATM skimmer fraudulent transactions.
The officer talked to a woman there, who said the address was split into two AirBnB rentals. She had been staying in one side long-term with her family during Minnesota’s COVID-19 stayat- home order. When showed photos of Iortoman and Robert Miclescu, she recognized them and said they’d been staying next door; she also provided descriptions of their vehicles.
The AirBnB’s property manager confirmed a man using the name Calvin Taylor (really Marius Chiciu, 26) had rented the place from March 17-24, 2020. Chiciu had also been spotted on Prescott WESTconsin ATM footage multiple times installing or removing skimmer equipment. The property manager said he was suspicious of Chiciu, because he had rented out several properties to Romanian groups all during the same timeframe who said they were from Maryland. Each property was left trashed and damaged, he added. When he responded to one of the rentals for a noise complaint, he noticed several new vehicles in the driveway, each with different states’ license plates.
One of the vehicles was registered to Constantin Miclescu, 35, Fremont, Calif. A Prescott investigator recognized the last name as being the same as the man who had picked up the Romanian teen at Prescott PD. Video footage on March 15, 2020, places Constantin Miclescu, along with another man, at a Hudson ATM installing a deep well card reader.
According to a Hudson police officer, from previous fraud investigations into identified Romanian crime groups, they primarily participate in familial groups and different family members have different fraud specialties such as ATM fraud, short-change thefts, cloned credit cards, organized shoplifting, etc.
“Therefore, it wouldn't be odd that several of the identified suspects in the St. Croix County cases couldn't be positively placed at some of these other AirB& B houses,” the report states.
On April 6, 2020, WESTconsin informed Hudson Police Department that the Hudson bank branch had documented 256 victims of fraud, identity theft, theft from a financial institution and use of a skimming device. Prescott police had identical incidents with the same victims, as did River Falls.
Police pieced together a timeline after reviewing 2020 ATM camera footage: River Falls
•March 21: Iortoman installs a deep well, card reader insert skimmer and pin-hole camera
•March 22: Iortoman removes the pin-hole camera board and skimming device.
•March 27: Marius Chiciu arrives in a white Chrysler Town & Country van and installs a pin-hole camera board and card reader skimmer insert. Later, Maldini Miclescu arrives in the same van and removes the pin-hole camera board and card reader skimmer insert.
•March 21: Chiciu arrives in a black Jeep Grand Cherokee and installs a deep well card reader skimmer and pin-hole camera board onto the exterior ATM.
•March 27: Mihai Velcu tests several cards to see if the installed skimmer is working properly.
•April 5: Hammond police receive a report from a resident who had $500 fraudulently removed from her account on April 4 at the Baldwin location, and another $500 on April 5 from the New Richmond location. ATM footage shows Francisco Miclescu, along with Iortoman’s brother Mori Vagabontu (a Facebook name), making withdrawals at the Hammond location. They are also seen on camera at the Baldwin and New Richmond locations on days fraudulent withdrawals occurred.
•March 14: Chiciu arrives in a black Jeep Grand Cherokee and installs a deep well card reader skimmer and pin-hole camera board onto the exterior ATM. Iortoman is seen sitting in the front passenger seat. A few hours later, Robert Miclescu arrives in the same Jeep with Maldini Miclescu in the passenger seat, and appears to tamper with the installed deep well card reader skimmer.
•March 15: Two men arrive in a blue SUV and approach the ATM. Constantin Miclescu uses a card to withdraw cash. Moldoveanu Velcu, 31, is standing next to him.
•March 21: Chiciu arrives in the black Jeep Grand Cherokee and installs a deep well card reader skimmer and pin-hole camera board. Later, Iortoman arrives in a gray Toyota Corolla and appears to tamper with the pin-hole camera board to make sure that it is mounted properly.
•March 22: Chiciu arrives in the gray Toyota Corolla and is observed installing a deep well card reader insert and a pin-hole camera board. About six hours later, Iortoman comes on the scene in the Toyota and appears to install a deep well card reader skimmer or tamper with it.
•March 23: Chiciu arrives in the black Jeep and appears to tamper with the pin-hole camera board. Later, Iortoman pulls up in the Toyota and installs a pin-hole camera board and deep well card reader skimmer insert.
•March 25: Chiciu drives up in the white Chrysler van and installs a pin-hole camera board and deep well card reader skimmer insert. Later, Robert Miclescu comes in the van and tampers with the skimmer equipment. He returns and installs a pin-hole camera board and card reader skimmer insert.
•March 26: Chiciu arrives in the Town & Country van and installs a deep well card reader skimmer and pin-hole camera board.
•March 28: Chiciu again arrives in the Town & Country van and installs a deep well card reader skimmer and a pin-hole camera board.
•March 29: Chiciu pulls up in a gray Toyota Corolla and installs a new pin-hole camera board.
•March 31: Robert Miclescu and Maldini Miclescu arrive in the Town & Country.
On March 29, Chiciu drives the gray Toyota Corolla and installs a pin-hole camera board. A few hours later, Maldini Miclescu arrives in the Town & Country to install a deep well card reader skimmer and remove a pin-hole camera board. Fraudulent withdrawals from WCU members begin primarily after March 29 and continued until April 5, 2020. WCU provided Excel spreadsheets detailing each victim, loss amount, branch location, and date.
WCU in Hudson reimbursed account holders for their losses, so the bank is the victim in terms of money lost.
Based upon the transient nature of the group and the fact that all suspects appear to reside outside the surrounding states, Hudson police requested nationwide extradition warrants for the suspects be issued.
Charges were filed in St. Croix County Circuit Court Jan. 8, 2021 for Robert Miclescu, 21; Maldini Miclescu, 26; Petre Patrian Iortoman, 19; and Marius Chiciu, 28; all have either a last known address in Maryland or California. Francisco Miclescu is the only one who has appeared in court. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2:15 p.m. Dec. 16.