A Romanian man who lives in Somerset and who was involved in a sophisticated bank card fraud thought to be worth in excess of £3 million and with 9,000 potential victims has walked free from court.
Leonid Rotaru was given an 18-month jail term, suspended for two years, after he was convicted of his part in the scam.
Taunton Crown Court heard that the 32-year-old helped to fit “skimming” devices on cash dispensers, which downloaded the card details of those who used them.
Police said they discovered 9,000 different card accounts on a computer seized during the criminal investigation, estimating the network to which Rotaru belonged had access to at least £3 million, based on the average fraud per card for typical skimming offences.
The court heard that father-of-two Rotaru had been living legally in the country for three years. His role in the scam was to fit the discreet skimming device to a cash machine, which was later removed and used to download the card details relevant to each unwitting victim’s account. Those details were then sent on an email to another man.
Rotaru told police he was “at the bottom end” of the operation, and that the “big boys operated out of London”. However, he refused to explain why he had not given their names to police as he left the court a free man. He also refused to say who received the card detail emails.
Judge Graham Hume Jones told Rotaru: “This is a sophisticated scam by which a number of people could have been victims. Even if they had been repaid by the banks, the banks themselves would have been the victims, and ultimately the banks’ customers.”
The court heard Rotaru skipped bail while under investigation for one such fraud, in Axminster, Devon, in 2011.
He was eventually convicted by a jury after his DNA was discovered inside the inner components of the tiny device. Rotaru was later apprehended when he was spotted by police in Minehead at an ATM which security staff thought had also been tampered with. He was arrested and initially gave a false name.
The court heard that Rotaru had “changed his attitude” while on remand. He was sentenced for four counts of possessing an article for use in fraud and one count of possessing/controlling a false/ improperly obtained identification card. Rotaru, of Bridgwater in Somerset, was also ordered to carry out 150 hours’ community service.