Welcome to Just curious media. This is that's a crime. I'm Jason Connell.
And I'm Sal Rodriguez.
All right, so we are back for another crime.
We shouldn't look forward to crime. But But
I know in this instance, I look forward to crime. And today we're breaking down the True Crime Story of the high tech ATM scammers withdrawal $250,000.02 1019.
Yeah, a case of greed. We'll get into that.
You always say that,
yeah, you know, if you're a criminal, you need to get in and get out. But what happens is people hang out, and they hang out and they get caught. That's what happened.
They get greedy. So this is an interesting crime because it didn't happen on just one day. It was really between December 2018 and may 2019, a Romanian trio consisting of Marius Cataloochee, 39, Iona Christina, Pawel 33 and sell art Farkas 27. So three Romanians, sell come to the US with bad intentions.
You know, this just brings to mind the whole gypsy thing? Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah, I mean, we don't I know, we're not going to go into that. But I mean, gypsies is the whole what folklore about gypsies? Is that true? Is it not true? I'm an American, what do I know? Educate me. Why don't you?
Well, in this instance, this trio of Romanians went from one atm to another across Virginia's Roanoke Valley and beyond installing hidden cameras that capture the personal identification numbers, also known as a pin number of their victims, as they punch them into the machines,
unsuspecting you know, you go to the ATM, you put your card in, right? You're not thinking anything, you put your card and you put your pin code your password in there. Yeah, what's your PIN code? So Oh, it is?
Wait, let me ask this trio.
You're not gonna get much let's face it, check that balance. look elsewhere. Yeah, you go in there, you do your thing. You walk away. You're not thinking anything. But what happens is, there's a little contraption there and you don't even realize it.
That's what's scary. So I know, this is probably an older crime. People have done it. But I believe this crew did it at a high level. Yeah, very sophisticated. So at the very same time, just like you said, there is a skimming device, which is called not phishing, phishing is online, skimming actual device that's placed inside the ATM machine recording the account information from the debit cards. So, you know, like you said, unsuspected bank customers get their money, do whatever put money in whatever they're doing, and they go about their business. They have no idea because they get their card back. It's not like hey, wait a second, the card ever getting better? It's just it's happened. Yeah, unsuspecting people. But what makes it really elaborate? So is the fact that they have cameras, recording. You typing in your PIN numbers. Yeah. That's next level. Because I guess skimming it, they might get the card, they could try to use the card where you don't need a pin. But this day and age, you need a pin everywhere. Remember, back in the day, you didn't even need to use a pin. You just learned an ATM card. No, not an ATM card. But if you use it as a credit card.
Oh, yeah, yeah, there those times I use my debit card, and I don't even put a pin in sure
that was that time so they could do the skimming thing. But they would need the pin. Well, this day and age. They need the pin. Yeah, it's a whole other thing now. And I know you've heard of skimming devices before. I have a personal story. What I don't know if it was like it wasn't an ATM skimming I have a rule. Yeah, if I go to an ATM, I usually go not usually always to a bank. Yes. And use their ATM and most likely inside set bank. Sure. Yeah. I wouldn't even think about skimming per se but that's just my go to you can avoid ATM.
When I mail a letter, I don't even drop in the box anymore. I go into the post office and put it in the slot in the post office. So yeah, I don't mess around
much safer. Well, one time I was in Hollywood shooting a video we were doing something for a potential reality show that never came about certainly background was going to be turned into a reality show yada yada yada. So we're doing this casting session and it's taking forever and I start to realize I'm running low on mini DV tape. That's what tells you what time this was. Like. Oh seven Oh, wait. And so I'm running low. I think I need another tape just in case. So I asked the other guys Is there anywhere around here because one Hollywood where there's lots of bustling things. It was just a bunch of like production houses. And some guy says yeah, there's a little mom and pop shop. Whatever. Right across the street. I go over Hey, super nice, young guy. You got the mini DV tapes. Sure sells it to me. And I wish I had cash. I wish I had cash. Yeah, give me my card. But he swipes it old school. You know the CHA like paper. That's so and I'm like, Ah, they're old school. They don't do much business, but on those things, dude, your card numbers just there. Right? And this is pre needing PIN codes to use it. Yeah. Well, lo and behold, that evening, my card, a clone bought something at Walmart and Torrance for $300.
You think they would have waited a little bit? Now they were on
and it didn't go above that. And I did it. This is a different era. I wasn't looking at my account every day. A few days later, I noticed this charge and immediately called the bank and said, You know what, I bet you I know what happened. And they believed me and took it off, however, so that's pretty gutsy of them to do that, knowing that I'm just working across the street. And who else am I going to point to? I knew who scammed me. I mean, it would had to be them.
Yeah. Did you go back? Did
you go confront now? Because once the bank said, Hey, we're good. I thought that's just crazy. You know, you want to lay low, and they couldn't hit it a few times. But so that was my one and only instance. But it wasn't a skimming device where you put it into
them. And then what did they buy from Walmart?
I'm assuming electronics. I wasn't sure I just saw the price tag. Again. I'm assuming that probably wasn't got a stereo or a TV or something. But okay,
because I once had an identity theft issue. Yeah, coincidentally, after returning from a vacation in Maui, again, could be coincidental. Yeah, maybe not. But very soon after returning from Maui, somebody use my credit card, specifically my debit card to buy $700 worth of airline tickets in the Philippines. Oh, so yeah, that was all rectified. But I had to wait, the account was frozen the whole thing. They had to figure out what's going on. But guess what, when all was said and done, and I spoke to the bank rep. I said, would there be an investigation? Are you guys gonna go after them? Like, no, it's not worth it. We write it off. Next. There's no investigation, folks. Yeah,
there's 100,000 More behind you. There you go. So after encoding the information on to counterfeit cards, it's what they do. Right. Mine was old school. But that's what they're doing. They're getting that information. And they're putting it on another car. Yeah, the trio of thieves returned to the ATMs and use the stolen pins to withdraw cash. And According to prosecutors, they took more than $250,000 from hundreds of personal banking accounts, because you got to figure not everyone has tons of cash in their account, right. So that's what they're doing. They're really going they're checking balance. Okay, this guy's got 25,000. Okay, this person has 5000. And then they're doing it old fashioned way.
Yeah. See, this is so different. Jason from our previous crime. That's a crime. The guy who ripped off Facebook and Google, you know, because I mean, those are such whales. They're the whales of the tech world tech giants. Yeah. I think most people will kind of chuckle at something like that. Oh, you ripped off Facebook. That's cool, you know, but these people ripped off just common ordinary, working folk. Yeah, that upsets beato. If you're going to be a thief, go after the big dogs.
Well, hopefully the bank is insured this money right to a certain percentage. So but still, it comes back and it comes out of the customer side for sure. They'll pay for it some way, even if they get their money back fees will now be more or something.
Oh, yeah, sometimes it creates a ripple effect. You take some money out of the account. Now the accounts and overdraft then maybe they have auto debits and before you know, you got fee after fee after fee after fee. So there's a lot of rectification to take place.
And even if that happens much like your Maui trip, what if it was dire for someone, hey, you had 16 things bounce, there's no money in your account. Rents do everybody wants there's so that's not even coming into play here. The pain and suffering and stress it's caused it had to have caused some people. So they were withdrawing basically $20 or $100 at a time, but it's not very much it would take time. So even if it's like, okay, we hit the jackpot here, this person's got 30,000 It takes time. There's daily limits, you know, so you got to think, Okay, this cars going to come back. I mean, it's a whole orchestrated mess, right? And then if you don't want to go back and be seen, I mean, putting myself in the shoes of the trio. You don't want to be busted. You want to keep a low profile, but yet you got to keep it's not like a wire to the Cayman Islands. It's just a little bit out of an ATM. And someone might get wise a bit like Hey, I just got ripped off. I'm closing that account. So barriers might come up.
Yeah. And one of the issues in them getting caught was the amount itself if they could have been like, the coin thief that we covered in a previous episode. That's a crime anyway. Yeah. A little bit a little bit a little bit. But yeah, these people are in a certain area. This was a certain area. Exactly. I'm thinking if these people have such an elaborate scam, why aren't they just touring the nation?
That is a great point. They had a good system that would set up shop but keep moving. They just I mean that that was tiny. It's the Blue Mountain Range Appalachian Mountains. It's that whole area. And in Roanoke Valley, Virginia. Yeah, I'm with you. They probably should have been like gotten the RV and just kept going and never went back. Never went back and just you know, hit The east coast, but they didn't for whatever reason it was working until that is, according to police, spring 2019, multiple jurisdictions became flooded with calls from people who reported unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts, it probably just started popping off because they're hitting like this three of them. X amount of counts in one day, people start looking at their accounts. And this is more recent, like me in 2008, you might look at it a few days later, you're not getting notifications like you get today, or even in 2019. This prompted the Roanoke branch of the US Secret Service to begin an investigation.
So I guess it springs out of the local jurisdiction at some point and becomes federal.
Yeah, that we got a problem here. And the you know, this is money. This is affecting lots of people's accounts. And you know what banks have to be secure for people. If they're compromised. It's probably why when there's bank robberies, they're quick to flush it out. And oh, it's all good here. Nothing to see here. Your money safe. If you're having all these people having this ripple effect, as you said, it's not good for business.
No, no, no, you, you want to think your money safe. When you put it in a bank. You want to think wherever you have any holdings. It's as safe as you can get, especially again, if you're just average folk working class. Yeah, maybe you have 1000 in your checking, maybe you keep an eye on it, you're gonna notice a couple 100 missing?
Absolutely. So I break came on May 5 of that year 2019, when a customer at the Bank of Fincastle, whose wife had been a victim of this skimming, called 911 to report seen a woman with long black hair and a baseball cap attempting to hide her face as she stood at a drive thru ATM now. So I would say standing at a drive thru ATM is probably not the best way to blend in
pretty conspicuous. Yeah, this person is not in the car, and ducking face. There was an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry David has tried to go through the drive thru walking. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, you're gonna stand out.
It look like you're trying not to be seen like you're a celebrity. Sure. long black hair baseball cap trying to avoid the camera. Something's not right. Not to mention, you have robbed people around you. You're going back to the banks. People are on high alert. They're not dumb. Yeah. You know, not everyone. And they quickly call it in. The woman left and a blue vehicle was New York license plates. The car was later stopped for speeding again. So mommy, you're killing me here by a sheriff's deputy who saw a red bag being thrown from the window. So this is self sabotage. If I've ever heard of it.
Yes, Jason. If I can give a word of advice to criminals, please. If you are indeed a criminal, whatever you're doing, ripping people off. Whatever criminals do. Obey the traffic laws. You might want to be very inconspicuous. How about that? It
may help. Now inside the car authority spotted a long black haired wig in a baseball cap. They also recovered at $800 Most of them and $20 bills and 46 Panera Bread gift cards that were later determined to be encoded with the stolen bank account information.
Okay, I was laughing at the Panera gift cards. Why are there Panera Bread gift cards
and anyone who has more than two. It's a red flag, there's 46 of them and they buy what and discount those for $1 Each ticket dollar ticket. Now these are all gift cards. There are maybe $5. And they needed a card to imprint to use.
Wait a second, the 46 Panera gift cards they were later determined to have been encoded. Also they use the values as bank cards.
They use those as bank interest and they probably bought them on the cheap and it's easy.
Most places you could just go grab a stack of gift cards because they're not activated.
Yes true. 70 Do I know at Starbucks I don't know if you can grab react at least have to put a denomination on there are you can do it online. So yeah, they may have just grabbed a minister and they probably had more than 46 I'm sure at one point in time, that was their hardware. Again, I'm not on the side of the criminal here. They did something horrible to lots of people. I'm just saying the criminal who's going to plot that sure makes a lot of mistakes. You do not need to be leaving the house with all 46 Your unless you plan on doing it all that day. And speeding as you said
one of the issues Jason is there are three suspects three people involved and we don't know how good their communication was, you know, we have no idea I like to think if you had a criminal empire at any level, you have a tight ship. Communication would be key A signals messages everything will be on point everybody's on the same page. Not necessarily. You know, you got a manager you got an assistant manager, you got a supervisor that are all differentiated from one another They're all freestylin sounds like Yeah, everybody wants to be the leader. I want to be the leader. No, I'm the leader. We don't know. We don't know how tight this group was and how communicative they were with one another.
That's exactly true. And we don't know. Well, the woman who was identified as Ayana, Christina prevail and arrested on the spot cellared Farkas was arrested shortly thereafter. And Marius Cataloochee was arrested on December 17 2019 in Pennsylvania while attempting to flee the United States and bought a flight to Ireland.
Ireland. Interesting choice Ireland, my
homeland. Why Ireland? I wonder, Oh, my grandparents homeland? Yeah, I'm not sure he probably while Patel's arrested, Farkas is arrested. Hey, I'm outta here.
Probably just took whatever flight was available, isn't it? Yeah,
yeah. What are you going Ireland? So kinda Louie was later charged after surveillance cameras documented him making repeated withdrawals at ATMs in one case standing at the machine for nearly an hour. Yeah. So if you stand in front of a convenience store for an hour, you look like a creeper. Yeah, you're an ATM? People coming up? Oh, yeah. Oh, go ahead or do that's this red flag city. You cannot hang out at an ATM machine. And that's my other Panera card. Hang on a second. Hang on, I get these confused.
The only way I could think this could work. Like why would you? I went to an ATM a week or two ago in Burbank. And there was a guy cleaning the machines. Oh, I was like, Oh, he's cleaning. You know, he's he works for the bank, you know, a contractor for the bank. I let him do his thing. I let him clean all expense with COVID in a pandemic, maybe that's okay. So guess what, though he cleans, I go up. I use my ATM. I make my withdrawal. I leave. He's still there cleaning.
He got scammed. He could have been check your paycheck and check your account. I'm gonna keep checking it you've been hacked.
But that's where you let a person slide as if there's in other cleaning that he works. He works for the cleaning service. Surely he's with the bank? Yeah, you don't even think about it. You give him right away. You know what I mean? Yeah, I think that yeah, check back.
Yeah, you bet. Hey, let's take a break from recording go check that bank. So authorities called this sophisticated means of theft. The skimming devices were placed inside the ATMs and were simply not noticeable at all. So I've watched videos where these things are, you know, they're kind of hidden. But if you touch the machinery or your car where it goes in the cover, the facade sometimes falls off. It's like that rinky dink these guys went next level,
your average person, you see the little slot, you don't know that it's a slot on top of a slot. Exactly. You don't yeah,
it's just covered. There's batteries, and it's just getting your information and then later they come by and take it and you'd never know No. Additionally, the investigation found that the pins were captured by small pinhole cameras, no pun intended, that were secretly installed near the ATMs as we talked about. So the cameras and skimming equipment, were then moved from location to location during the six months scam. So they would set up shop, get a bunch of information, move on, and then go back with these fake credit cards and start withdrawing from the ATMs. Yeah, I think you're right, they got way too greedy. And they probably should have kept this thing moving like the circus just moved on down the road, it would have been much harder to find them.
It's kind of like gambling. Imagine you're in Vegas, and you're on a slot machine.
And you're up. Yeah, oh, this
slot machine. Oh boy, I won. I'm gonna win again. No, it's probably not going to happen. If you won once on the slot machine, you're probably not going to win big again, on that slot machine, you need to move along and and that's what happens. These criminals, they strike gold, and they keep trying to strike gold. And then eventually, you get caught.
But they make a mistake, too. They make a mistake. They get sloppy. She has a car. You know, I had a car, she decided to stand at the ATM. And that drew attention from the other bank customer. Had she been in the car trying to avoid the camera. This thing could have kept going. And I'm glad it didn't. I'm just saying thank goodness, they make mistakes. Greed sets in. I gotta get to 10 banks a day and you start thinking so far ahead. You just get sloppy.
No, Jason, let me tell you, I'm just gonna share this with you. And our listeners. Only you and our listeners know, okay, okay. I once got a gift card, Panera Bread to a gym. It was a gift card to a gym, and the gym had a retail store. Alright, okay. So that was great. It was like $100 or so. I went to use the gift card. I use the $100 It didn't acknowledge that I used it. I went back I use it again. I went back I use it again. Jason once I got up to $1,200 I said you know what? I'm just gonna stop. I'm just gonna stop right here. You start to get to the morality of it. You start to well, what if I get caught? I said that's it. It's done. It's over. I stopped at $1,200 this is by the way, this is a ledger young. You are Yeah, I was young. This is is allegedly this maybe did or didn't happen but should have checked that balance but yeah the point is you have to stop at some point stop before you get carried away because that's when you get caught.
You may have pushed it a little bit far
who knows how far could have gone
1200 Guilt starts to set in I'm like yeah, this is fine. Can I pay this back? Yeah,
yeah, exactly. What can I pay back? What can I justify like it's a big company. It's a big company. But then after a while you're like, Ah,
this I thought it was a $1,500 gift card I wasn't sure. Sorry about that. Well, Assistant US Attorney Coleman Adams stated it takes little thought to imagine the experience hundreds of individuals endured when they realize money had been stolen from their accounts absolutely sow and this is why they came out to these people very swiftly and took them out
Well hang on Jason we're gonna get into their their their penalties. I mean, did they did a good
amount of their scam took him out of their scam. But you're right. So here's what happened to the Romanian Shreya. Pawel was released on bond in 2020, and has since returned to Romania by federal immigration officials. Prosecutors asked that the charges against her be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be reinstated in the future. So I don't even understand this. No,
you know what? Again, I'm not one of these hard on crime guys. But you know what? They come to this country commit crimes, and we just like kick them out. And that's it. What penalties have to have to be paid other than being kicked out of the country?
had been in jail for a little while. There's a lot of things we don't know. Did she share the whole elaborate plan and say I and showed real remorse and said I'm going to Romania? I'm never coming back? I don't know are she had a really good attorney? But yeah, she got off like, so it would seem it's
one of these things where maybe she did the plea bargain, where you know, if you if you turn on your partners
turn on this guy, this guy? Well, here's Farkas, he remained in jail since the arrest up until his sentencing and 2021. So he was serving time, right. And then he was ordered to pay 247 $566. So nearly the amount of $250,000 just shy, he had to pay that restitution to the banks. So it's like, yeah, but she was also in on it, and so was Cataloochee. So yes, she might have just pleaded right away. Yeah, it was really Farkas, he's the mastermind, or Cataloochee. But he had to pay that. And then there's kind of Louie Cataloochee pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, and is currently in jail awaiting to be sentenced on January 7 2022. Now, he was also caught trying to get out of the country. I read that he showed remorse, too. But again, we don't know how they all fit together. We don't know why the sentencing was so different. They should have been, they should have all been done the same punishment. Right?
You would think that way? No, Jason, I know, you know, enough crime to know that people can turn on each other to get the plea bargain, oh, one person gets off, the other person faces all the stiff penalties. In this instance, it seems like kind of Louis is taking the hit for all of them.
And Farkas on the financial side.
Well, let's be real here. You really think he's going to end up paying almost a quarter million dollars back to the banks? How are they going to recoup that? Were they gonna do like auto debit his paychecks? What are they going to do?
Unless they were sitting on cash? You're probably right. You're probably right. Maybe he had the lion's share still of what they stole. And this was just this time. Who knows? But you're right. Maybe he doesn't pay it all back. But yeah, can Louis took the biggest hit? And then down the line from there?
Yeah, January 7 2022. I almost feel like we should do a follow up. Let's keep an eye on this case and see what happens in January of 2022. At least let's see what happens with Cataloochee. Because here's the problem. You rip off banks. Yeah. And it wasn't millions right now. It's it's Miller million. Yeah, that's pretty big. But still, when you look at what banks go after what they send their investigators after, when there's time involvement, right. I bet you the banks will never see that money. Again, they're gonna write it off as an insurance write off. And Farkas will not pay all that back. And Cataloochee we'll see what his sentences but he's not going to pay that back either. These people will be laid off fairly easily with what we would call a slap on the wrist, I would say and one already has. Yeah, one is gotten off, basically. Yeah. And you know what you were I couldn't have gotten off on this. No, because they kept us send us to another country. We were stuck here. So if you were I would have done the same crime believe me we would have paid a bigger penalty than a Pawel. Yeah.
So that's it that covers the high tech ATM scammers Withdraw $250,000 Sell, sell what have we learned? Go on to the branches to use ATM. Also, I should have pointed this out earlier. When you do your pin. I've always been instructed to cover your And anyway, as if someone's watching as if so if there is that camera and someone installed some sort of pinhole or a ring camera or some tiny security camera, even if it's you, they wouldn't have had it, they would have had the card Intel, but they wouldn't have the pen
adjacent, you want to know a trick that I do is so I don't want anyone to see my pin, of course, like everybody else. So I use the card, I literally put my wallet in front of my hand. And I put in my pin with a wallet covering. Because at the same time, there's also sort of a little social thing where you're not trying to let the cashier know that you don't trust them. Right, you're not saying hey, cashier, I don't trust you. But at the same time, you want to be a little covert and do your pins so that's what I do. I allow my own wallet in one hand, while the pin in the other hand is what
I did probably not gonna have a camera inside a store. Probably not probably not a target. It usually happens at gas stations. Yes. Or ATM. Yeah, because they're isolated. You're alone gas stations. There's lots of places you could stick something. ATMs for sure. So but it's a good habit to be in. Also, if you see something rickety. Just just you know like if you touch it and it falls off like Do not insert card. That's why I like the touch pay now right? Even better that does that work? What a lot of the cards if they have it you just kind of get it near the device and it doesn't exist. It dings it there's probably is going to be skimming device for that but right now it feels a little bit safer. Yeah, and then hide the ATM so that's what we've learned. Check your accounts look for interesting or odd or things that you didn't charge and you did not authorize contact your bank immediately. I do hope Sal that everybody received their money back without fail. The bank had that no, this is a black eye on them all the banks right and they Oh my gosh, they were victim to this and this timeframe. So everybody's getting a full refund. You know that's really paid the price here
Yeah, I don't like knowing average folk, you know, I have a thing about average, folks, I consider myself sort of an average guy, you know, so average folk getting ripped off. Not a fan. Not a fan of that
not cool. So that's how we got we've had a lot of great crimes recently. We'd like to cover what do we cover on that's a crime so well,
my favorite to this day is our premiere episode and that it covers DB Cooper, the famous crime from I believe was at 7171 1971 Hi, Jack. Hi. Yah, yah, yah, no suspects ever caught. A lot of speculation about who money's still out there. And money never never reclaimed. Yeah. If you love crime, you got to learn about dB Cooper. Because this guy was like a genius.
Yeah. Well, we've had lots of great episodes, Lindbergh, baby kidnapping, and many others. But I was saying in general, what do we cover? What's our scope?
That's a crime covers everything from a misdemeanor, to a murder.
Well done. And check out the new YouTube Live Channels streaming live after it airs. Then the RE air comes out when the podcast version comes out, because we like to edit the podcast version, trim it down. But the unedited version is the YouTube live version. So a lot of fun. A lot of great stuff happening here. And yeah, thanks for checking it out.
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