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Couple Pleads Guilty in LIRR 'Skimmer' Scam

The couple gathered financial information from MTA vending machines in Sea Cliff, authorities said.

Couple Pleads Guilty in LIRR 'Skimmer' Scam

A Queens husband and wife pleaded guilty on Thursday to skimming financial information from Long Island Rail Road ticket machines in Sea Cliff, according to the Nassau County District Attorney.

Valer Zaharia, 38, of Kew Gardens, is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12. He pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree conspiracy for his involvement in a scam using hidden cameras and bank card “skimmers” at commuter ticket vending machines operated by the MTA, the DA’s office said. The scheme included gathering debit and credit card account numbers and PINs, using the information to steal money from people’s bank accounts and financial institutions. He is expected to be sentenced to two-to-six years in prison.

His wife, Teodora Zaharia, 28, also of Kew Gardens, pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny. She is scheduled for sentencing on April 21. Prosecutors requested a sentence of 9 months in jail and forfeiture of $61,251.85 in cash found at her Queens apartment.

The Zaharias were arrested on Oct. 28, 2013 when they were observed retrieving two skimmer devices and two hidden cameras from Ticket Vending Machines at the Sea Cliff LIRR station, not knowing that MTA Police had been monitoring the station for more than 72 hours.

Two others involved in the scam, Dorin Husa, 37, of Elmhurst, and Niculae Petre, 45, also of Elmhurst, each pleaded guilty in March to criminal possession of forgery devices. Prosecutors are requesting sentence of one year in jail for Husa and Petre, and the forfeiture of $7,000 in cash recovered from their Queens apartment. Both are due back in court for sentencing on April 25.

Also charged in the scheme is Cezar Nastasa, who fled to the United Kingdom on Oct. 31, 2013, shortly after Husa, Petre and the Zaharias were arrested. Nastasa is charged with third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree conspiracy, five counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, two counts of second-degree unlawful possession of a skimmer device, and two counts of criminal possession of a forgery device. There is a warrant for his arrest.

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