Federal judge sentences foreign national in $200,000 skimming scheme

Dec 9, 2022, 7:13 PM

Credit card skimming device...

Tape has been added to the point-of-sale card reader where a card skimming device was found on Dec. 23. 2019. (KSL TV)


SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge sentenced Yofre Napoleon Almonte, 49, to prison after he plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Almonte will spend three years in a U.S. federal prison and pay $199,122.18 in restitution.

Almonte and five others were arrested for allegedly using high-tech skimming devices they installed on gas pumps at Utah and Idaho service stations to “clone” customers’ credit or debit cards.

According to a news release from the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah, Almonte “participated in a scheme to defraud gas station customers and their banks using skimming equipment to surreptitiously steal the customers’ credit card information.”

Their method differed from traditional “skimming” machines that are designed to look like part of the pump.

The news release said, “Almonte and his alleged co-defendants used a Bluetooth wireless device that is installed onto the computer motherboard of the internal computer that controls the ATM/gas pump. The defendants could then initiate a wireless Bluetooth connection and download all the digital credit card/ATM card information stored by the device.”

People would never see the skimming devices because they are inside the pump.

The release said they then made fraudulent cards with the stolen information and used them to steal $200,000 in gasoline and other items.

These skimming cases are not uncommon.

For instance, in July of 2020, another foreign national, Alexandru Cosmin Licsor, 38, admitted in court that he installed skimmer devices equipped with magnetic card readers, data recorders, digital cameras, and batteries at Zions Bank ATMs along the Wasatch Front, according to the office of U.S. Attorney John Huber.

The skimming equipment collected bank customer card data and the camera recorded the PIN pad as customers entered their codes. Banking information was stolen from at least 2,732 customers between January and February of 2015.

Court documents said Licsor attempted to withdraw $512,960.13 and actually stole $189,740.30.

FBI agents arrested Licsor in Romania in late 2019 after tracking him around the globe for years.

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Federal judge sentences foreign national in $200,000 skimming scheme