The scope of an international “skimming” scheme that impacted as many as 200 automated-teller machine users in the Prairie du Sac area is widening, as indictments were handed down Feb. 18 in New York against two additional men who are being called the masterminds behind the sophisticated nationwide bank-theft plot.
Officials now estimate the amount of illegal withdrawals to exceed $3 million from more than 6,000 accounts.
Previously, Sauk County officials issued an arrest warrant for 39-year-old Mihai Vasile Bandura, who they believe is Romanian and may have left the country. Now, Antonio Gabor and Simion Tudor Pintillie also are being sought.
The thefts likely feature the use of a “skimming device,” according to officials, that is placed on an ATM card reader. Thieves then place a camera somewhere nearby to record a bank customer’s personal identification number.
Sauk Prairie police believe an ATM at the Sentry Food Store in Prairie du Sac is where local customers’ codes were recorded. They encourage ATM users to shield their pin-number entries and change their data frequently. Further, they ask that ATM users be on the lookout and report, anything that resembles a recording device.
Cash withdrawals that involved accounts in Milwaukee, Racine, Beloit and Chicago were traced back to a compromised account at the Bank of Prairie du Sac. An official there first notified local police in November of an exorbitant number of cases of fraudulent activity.
Now, the ring is being described as one that reached the east coast as well.