A woman who was arrested at a Nixa bank stolen credit and debit card information from dozens of people was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison.
Loredana Baceanu, 31, pleaded guilty June 24 to possessing counterfeit and unauthorized access devices. She admitted to being part of a group that stole credit and debit card information from ATMs.
On Oct. 18, U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips sentenced Baceanu to two years and six months in federal prison without the possibility of parole. The judge also ordered Baceanu to pay back $35,807 to the persons she stole from.
Locally, the Christian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged Baceanu, 31, with the Class B felony of trafficking in stolen identifies, and 48 counts of Class D felony forgery. She has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 10, in associate circuit court in Ozark.
Bank officials at Central Bank of the Ozarks in Springfield notified law enforcement on Oct. 12, 2018, of suspicious activity that had occurred at an ATM. The bank’s monitoring software had alerted them to the presence of a skimming device – a small electronic device used to steal credit card information – being placed on their ATM.
When a person swipes a credit or debit card through a machine with a skimmer attached, the device captures and stores all the details stored in the card’s magnetic stripe. The stripe contains the credit card number, expiration date and the credit card holder’s full name. Thieves use the stolen data to make fraudulent charges either online or with a counterfeit credit card or gift card.
On Oct. 23, 2018, bank officials at Southern Bank discovered would-be thieves targeting four different ATM locations, withdrawing money from multiple accounts. Bank officials said they believed these suspects were using stacks of re-encoded credit cards to facilitate the theft of funds from compromised credit and debit card accounts. Bank officials identified suspect photos at four different ATM locations in Springfield and Nixa.
The Nixa branch manager was in the process of filing a police report on Oct. 23, 2018, when Baceanu returned to that branch’s ATM. The Nixa police officer who was taking the report returned to his patrol vehicle and made a traffic stop on Baceanu’s vehicle in the parking lot of the bank. Baceanu, who was a passenger in the vehicle, had 49 gift card/credit cards in a concealed pocket within an undergarment she was wearing and $880 concealed in her bra. A micro SD media storage card and a Florida identification card fell from somewhere within Baceanu’s shirt to the ground.
Upon using a card reader, law enforcement learned that the magnetic stripes on all 49 generic gift cards had been re-encoded and counterfeited with different account numbers not original to the gift card. The data on the Micro SD card was the raw data recovered from skimming devices.
Welsh case from 2012
Multiple reports from British media outlets in September and October of 2012 connect Baceanu to a string of burglaries in Wales.
Baceanu was one of eight members of a gang of Romanians who committed what the judge at Merthyr Crown Court called "a conspiracy of sophistication and determination,” according to the BBC. The group carried out an estimated 30 burglaries in five months, usually targeting “corner shops.”
In Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Newport, Wales, the gang took jewelry worth approximately £128,000 and about £41,000 in cash, along with laptops, mobile phones and sat nav equipment. The total theft reached more than £170,000, or about $221,85.69 in U.S. dollars according to current exchange rates.
Baceanu was sentenced to two years in British prison.