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Complaints filed vs Romanians; manhunt on for 2 more suspects

The three Romanians tagged in ATM skimming cover their faces when they were presented at the prosecutor’s office for inquest. Authorities recover an abandoned vehicle (inset) allegedly owned by the Romanians tagged in the ATM skimming activities. Le Antojado/ Paul Jun E. Rosaroso

CEBU, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-7 yesterday filed a complaint before the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office (CCPO) against the three Romanian nationals for the recent automated teller machine (ATM) skimming incident hitting the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

As this developed, a manhunt was also started for two other Romanian nationals believed to be part of an international syndicate.

NBI-7 Director Patricio Bernales, Jr. said a complaint for violations of Section 9 (c), (e), (f), and (j) of Republic Act 8484, otherwise known as Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998, in relation to Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act, was filed against the foreign nationals.

Named respondents were Costel Ion, 30; Ionut Alexandru Mitrache, and Razvan Aurelian Stancu, who were arrested last Thursday, and Mercia Iordan alias Jozsef Gal, who is still at large.

Costel and Mitrache, both businessmen, and Stancu, an IT expert, were brought before the prosecutor’s office for an inquest proceeding, but they failed to beat yesterday’s cutoff.

The complaint was only docketed and they will be brought back to the prosecutor’s office today for the said proceeding where they will be assisted by lawyer Christopher Ruiz.

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Senior Superintendent Jonathan Cabal, chief of Regional Intelligence Division of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7, said the search against two more Romanian nationals was immediately launched after they recovered a white 2007 Toyota Camry with plate number ZKM-158 in the parking lot of Ayala Center Cebu around 8 p.m. Sunday.

Cabal narrated that it was the security personnel of the mall who identified the vehicle used by two of the three Romanians the NBI had arrested last Thursday,

“Nag-tip ang security ng Ayala na may hindi nag-claim ng sasakyan nya. So, nung hindi kli-naim nung March 17 (Friday), overnight, nagpa-poste kami ng tao together with the security. Kasi yung unang occupant ng Camry nung March 16, they were the ones arrested by NBI sa skimming, yung Romanians,” Cabal said.

The car, which was left unclaimed in the evening of March 17, was registered under Sebastian Rama Oros of Villa Sol, Colorado Street, A8-AB in Angeles City, Pampanga, Cabal said.

According to the security personnel of the mall, they noticed that the right window of the passenger’s seat of the car was open, and found a paper bag full of cash, worth P3 million on that day (March 16).

“Kasi na find-out ng guard na open yung window so tiningnan nung guard, may mga pera.  As a security protocol ng Ayala, pi-nage nila yung (owner ng car) bumaba naman, at binilang yung pera,” Cabal said.

Cabal said the Romanians gave the security personnel some cash as a reward but the latter, however, refused to accept it.

The Romanians left the mall and were eventually arrested the following evening.

Cabal said the car used by the three arrested foreigners went back to the same mall, which was driven by two other Romanians.

This was identified by the mall security through their surveillance cameras, Cabal added.

“Yung sasakyan na puti, bumalik (sa Ayala).  Ibang sakay naman, iniwan lang doon,” Cabal said.

The police towed the car and brought it to the PRO-7.

When police checked the car, they recovered two password-protected laptops, which will be sent to the cybercrime unit for investigation.

Cabal believed that the two wanted Romanians are part of the international syndicate on ATM skimming as they are “acting in conspiracy” with those who were arrested.

Cabal said they will coordinate with the NBI and other agencies under the PNP.

“Yes, definitely, makikipag-coordinate kami sa NBI yun nga instruction ko sa tao ko at saka sa ibang agency ng PNP.  Yung highway patrol, yung crime lab, pati ang cybecrime group,” Cabal said.

Meanwhile, at least five more victims of skimming formally filed a complaint before the NBI against the three arrested Romanians.

One of them was former judge Meinrado Paredes, who lost at least P100,000.

"Yes, I filed a separate complaint for theft and violation of RA 8484. I executed an affidavit” Paredes said.

He said that the LBP promised to give him back his P100,000 that got lost due to ATM skimming.

Aside from Paredes, two female employees of the Department of Science and Technology, who requested anonymity, also filed complaint against the Romanians after they lost a total of P220,000.

The NBI agents, after getting a search warrant last Thursday, immediately raided the respondents’ units at Padgett Place, Molave St., Barangay Lahug, Cebu City last Thursday.

The NBI applied for a search warrant after they were able to trace the vehicle, a Mustang 5.0 with conduction sticker IO 1414 that was captured by the bank’s closed-circuit television (CCTV), allegedly in possession of the respondents.

During the search, the NBI agents able to recover two laptops, 45 card readers, receipts and documents of purchase items, lease contract of a high-end condominium, Mustang 5.0 with conduction sticker IO 1414, skimming tool, clone cards, checkered polo and other from units of the respondents.

Senior Investigator III Florante Gaoiran said the checkered polo recovered from the unit of the respondents was the same checkered polo captured by the bank’s CCTV camera.

Aside from the vehicle, there were also semblances of the respondents in the CCTV footages. — Christell Fatima M. Tudtud, Mylen P. Manto, Le Phyllis Antojado (FREEMAN)

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