Fairfax County police have made an arrest in connection with the skimming of at least a dozen ATM cards at bank machines inside local hospitals over the last several months.
Detectives arrested Ioan Cicio, 39, of the 2200 block of George C. Marshall Drive in Falls Church on Monday.
Cicio has been charged with three counts of possession of credit card forgery devices, three counts of credit card theft, two counts of credit card fraud and one count of money laundering, police said.
Police said they have received reports from over a dozen victims that may have had their bank cards compromised at hospital ATMs since September, including Inova Fairfax Hospital Cardiac Care Center in Falls Church and Inova Fair Oaks Hospital.
An alert customer spotted a skimming device on an ATM there in September and contacted hospital security, which immediately called police, according to police spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.
The discovery coincided with other calls that had been made to financial crime detectives complaining that different individuals’ ATM cards were being used fraudulently to purchase groceries, expensive coffees and, primarily, to get cash from other ATMs, Caldwell said.
“Since then, many more victims have come forth,” Caldwell said.
According to the FBI, skimming devices planted on ATMs are usually undetectable by users and are purposely made to blend right into the ATM façade. Customers typically insert their ATM card into the phony reader, and their account info is swiped and stored on a small attached laptop or cellphone or sent wirelessly to the criminals waiting nearby.
In addition, skimming typically involves the use of a hidden camera, installed on or near an ATM, to record customers’ entry of their PIN into the keypad. According to the FBI, instead of cumbersome cameras, phony keypads also are sometimes placed on top of the real ATM keypad, recording keystroke as customers punch in their PIN. The FBI estimates the illegal practice costs many U.S. banks hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Caldwell said the discovery at Inova’s Cardiac Care Center was particularly insidious because of its location.
“People using that facility are completely preoccupied with their health or the health of others,” she said. “Putting that device there intentionally was preying on people facing potential life-threatening situations.”
Skimming devices often are installed for short periods of time — usually just a few hours — so they’re often attached to an ATM by nothing more than double-sided tape, Caldwell said. The devices are then removed by the criminals, who download the stolen account information and encode it onto blank cards. Those cards often are used to make withdrawals from victims’ accounts at other ATMs, or used as check-cards.
“We believe this particular one was placed there in August,” she said. “It was not discovered for about a month. That means the potential number of victims could be very high. It could be dozens, or even hundreds.”
Police tracked down Cicio after he was identified in surveillance video linked to a skimmed ATM card belonging to the Fairfax City Local 2702 Fire Association.
With the assistance of detectives from the Fairfax City Police Department and the United States Postal Service, the card was tracked to gift cards purchased from a Home Depot in Falls Church that were later used to buy custom-made carpeting and high-end faucets.
Detectives executed a search warrant at Cicio’s home on Thursday and said they recovered numerous items including skimmer devices, cameras, and computers.
“Detectives did an outstanding job of putting together extensive documents, numerous tips and video in this complex investigation; it was a tremendous amount of work,” said Lieutenant Tony Matos, supervisor of the Fairfax County Police Financial Crimes Unit. Matos added that financial crimes are on the rise and are increasingly common. Last year, the public reported almost 3,000 cases over the agency’s Financial Crimes electronic reporting site. The site is used to report cases of identity theft, embezzlement, credit card theft and fraud, construction and check fraud.
Police said the investigation is continuing and that further charges against Cicio are pending. No attorney information for Cicio has yet been made available.