Romanian arrested for 2015 ATM scam nabbed again with accomplices

Bank Fraud suspects Pampanga JESS MALABANAN 07252017
The three suspects in police custody. Photograph by Jess Malabanan, News5

Three foreigners were arrested yesterday (Monday, July 24) for allegedly stealing money from ATMs in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Chief Superintendent Aaron Aquino, Central Luzon police director, identified the suspects as Nicaraguan Radu Minodor Sandor, aged 43, Italian Marcu Bogdan, 26, and Romanian Petro Ioan Uveges, 44.


As we reported in November 2015, Uveges was arrested for the same scam in Mandaue City. It was said he was part of a Romanian-based gang that targeted the Philippines due to its weak security systems.

It is unknown how he escaped from custody and avoided deportation, but when arrested yesterday he was carrying a Hungarian passport in the name of Balazs Varga. Uveges is married to a Filipino woman in Cebu City and has  two children.

His previous arrest followed a two-month police surveillance operation after another Romanian was caught using convenience store reward cards to steal money from the hacked bank accounts of foreigners in Cebu.


Suspiciously slow

Yesterday’s arrests came after a roving security staff from the BPI Family Savings Bank first saw the three men using an ATM along MacArthur Highway in Barangay San Agustin at 10.30pm.

His suspicions were aroused by the length of time the men were taking to withdraw cash, so he called police.

Senior Superintendent Joel Consulta, Pampanga police provincial director, said the suspects tried to flee the scene when they saw police arrive. However, their vehicle was blocked by patrol cars and they were arrested.

A search of the men revealed they were carrying 339,300 pesos in cash and 152 pieces of cloned ATM cards.

During questioning, the men said they had travelled up from Cebu City by car and ferrry.

Foreign accounts targeted

Mr Aquino said the suspects preferred to operate in areas popular with tourists and expats where they would not be so conspicuous.

“They do the skimming or planting of cloning devices and hidden cameras in ATMs frequently used by foreigners and Filipinos. Then they harvest or withdraw money,” he said.

Aquino added that the foreigners were able to “harvest” the 339,300 pesos in less than two hours by moving between several ATMs.

The men have been charged with violation of Republic Act (RA) 8484 or the Access Devices Regulation Act as well as RA 8792 or the Electronic Commerce Act.

Central Luzon police will coordinate with the Bureau of Immigration.