|Marius Manolache (inset) had 17 fake debit cards containing skimmed bank information, police say.|
After recovering dozens of ATM skimmers across the North Side and downtown in recent months, Chicago police may have caught a break. And a man who has been living in a motel near Clark and Diversey is in custody.
Skimmers are small devices that criminals plant on ATMs to secretly capture users’ banking information and PINs. After allowing the sneaky contraptions to collect data for a period of time, fraudsters return to the ATM, collect the skimmers, and then create fake ATM cards using the captured data.
Around 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to a call of a suspicious man using multiple cards in a Fifth Third Bank ATM at 2934 North Milwaukee.
Cops stepped into the vestibule and found 42-year-old Marius Manolache standing at a cash machine.
“Do you have anything you shouldn’t have?” an officer asked, according to court records.
Manolache’s one-word answer: “Tarjetas.” That’s Spanish for “cards.”
A search of Manolache turned up 17 skimmer cards with PINs written on their backs, $3,040 entirely in $20 bills, and his Romanian passport, cops said.
Late Sunday night, financial crimes officers spent an hour executing a search warrant on Manolache’s “home”: room 107 of the Inn at Lincoln Park, 601 West Diversey.
The cards allegedly in Manolache’s possession contained the banking information of at least seven people, including five women, according to police records.
Manolache is charged with felony burglary, felony aggravated identity theft of a person over age 60, and felony theft of identity from more than three victims.
Judge Sophia Atcherson set bail at $5,000, meaning Manolache needs to post $500 to go free.
|Locations of ATM skimming devices discovered in our area since October. Manolache was living in a hotel room near the starred location when cops arrested him on Sunday. | Batchgeo|
Dozens of ATM skimming devices have been recovered by cops since October, including several that were planted close to Manolache’s motel: a bank at 644 West Diversey; another bank at 1345 West Diversey; the Walgreens at 3201 North Broadway; and the CVS at 3033 North Broadway to name a few. No one has been charged in connection with planting those devices.
Police continue to encourage ATM users to inspect the machines, looking for any irregularities or loose parts, before using them. The card reader slot and PIN pad should not wiggle or have extra pieces visible. Give everything a good pull. Real ATM parts are built to take a beating. Nothing should move or pop off.
Investigators also suggested covering your hand when you enter your PIN so hidden cameras cannot pick up your secret code.
Anyone with information about skimming incidents is asked to call the Chicago Police Financial Crimes Unit at (312) 746-9661.