Somerset

Fraudster sentenced over card-skimming scam

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Media captionLeonid Rotaru, 32, of Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, was caught red-handed by police as he returned to collect a card reader from an ATM in Minehead.

A fraudster who admitted running a card-skimming scam in Somerset has received a suspended prison sentence.

Leonid Rotaru, 32, of Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, was caught red-handed by police as he returned to collect a card reader from an ATM in Minehead.

The judge at Taunton Crown Court sentenced Rotaru to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years.

After his arrest, police discovered he had obtained about 9,000 bank card PIN numbers.

'Well-orchestrated'

Sentencing Rotaru, Judge Graham Hume Jones, said: "This was a sophisticated scam by any standard.

"A number of people could have victims and even if they could have been repaid by the banks, the banks would have been victims."

Rotaru was also told to do 150 hours of unpaid community work.

Police have estimated banks lose on average £460 per card in such card-skimming scams.

Officers said the network to which Rotaru belonged had access to at least £3m, based on the average fraud per card.

Rotaru had installed a card-reading device at the cash machine at Tesco in Minehead.

When customers withdrew cash from the machine their suspicions were aroused, prompting them to tell shop staff who reported it to police.

Barry Douglas, from Avon and Somerset Police, said: "By irony or total coincidence the guy was coming back, we think, to remove the device.

"The PC had already seen the CCTV of him fitting it earlier in the day, recognised the person and he was arrested."

Rotaru, a Romanian national, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and the possession of various skimming devices.

He was already on the run from the police in the UK for similar offences when he was caught.

Mr Douglas said: "This is usually very organised, you can tell from the quality of the equipment that was attached to the ATM, you can tell from the amount of detail that was found on the computer.

"This was well-organised, well-orchestrated and with good criminal connections."

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