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High-Tech Bank Fraud Suspect Nabbed

MANHATTAN (CN) - A Romanian man who overstayed his visa was arrested and accused of installing "skimming" devices on dozens of ATM machines that a high-tech fraud ring used to steal more than $1.5 million from HSBC Bank customers.

Laurentiu Iulian Bulat was arrested last week and accused of being the "installer" for a ring that stole bank customers' account numbers and PIN numbers from the machines after Bulat installed the skimming devices. More than 40 ATMs in Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester were hit, federal prosecutors said.

The Secret Service and U.S. Attorney's Office had been investigating the skimming ring since May 2011.

Bulat installed "small pin-hole cameras installed on the ATMs that made a video recording of the customers' PINs as the numbers were entered into the ATM machines," the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement announcing his arrest.

"After a period of time, members of the ring retrieved the skimming devices from the compromised ATMs, downloaded the information stored on the devices, and then matched the stolen account numbers retrieved from the card readers with the corresponding PINs recorded by the pin-hole cameras. The ring then encoded the stolen bank account information onto plastic cards, and used them, along with the corresponding PINs, to make unauthorized cash withdrawals directly out of the compromised bank accounts of the victim customers. The ring has stolen an estimated $1.5 million from the compromised accounts through this fraud."

Bulat was charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. If convicted, he faces up to 60 years in federal prison.

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