Two Romanian men have been jailed for importing and possessing card skimming equipment used to steal $75,000 from New Zealanders.
Card skimming is when a card scanner is placed over the card swipe mechanism on an ATM or other machine. The skimmer scans the inserted cards, allowing thieves access to the card number, expiration date and holder's full name.
On Wednesday, 31-year-old Ionut Alexandru Oprescu was sentenced to two years five months in prison, and Victor Ionut Ghenadi, 36, was sentenced to three years in Auckland District Court.
The men are believed to have ties with international criminal syndicates. They arrived in Auckland from Dubai in November 2019.
The skimming equipment was used to obtain the credit card details of more than 122 New Zealanders, stealing approximately $75,380.
Customs investigated after receiving a tip-off from a courier driver in January 2020.
The tip-off led to two packages - one declared as 'musical box' and the second 'laptop without hard disk' - being seized. The packages were sent from London and hidden skimming devices.
The courier driver refused to hand over a package when approached on the street by the men trying to collect it. The courier company altered Customs to the incident, prompting an investigation.
The two men were identified and their rented apartment on Hobson street was raided by police and Customs in January, leading to the subsequent arrests.
A large number of parts, tools and equipment used to make card skimming devices were found at the apartment, including a functional skimming device, blank cards, and a card writer machine.
During the raid, Oprescu was caught trying to hide items in the ceiling.
Hidden inside Ghenadi's pillow were numerous cards, including those from Bonfire, Smiggle, JB Hi-Fi and Countdown/AA Smartfuel, all loaded with financial information linked to victims' credit cards.
A search of Ghenadi's rented car found moulding clay used to assemble skimming devices.
Electronic forensic analysis of the men's phones located images of various bank ATMs, carpark and petrol station payment machines.
A USB hard drive attached to a pinhole camera, found in the apartment, showed videos of people entering their pin access codes while using a machine.
Bank deposit slips showed that $43,550 of the $75,380 was cashed and deposited into an account to be converted into cryptocurrency.
Customs Investigations Manager Bruce Berry says card skimming devices are often addressed to the homes of innocent occupiers.
"Quick and collaborative work by Customs and others ensured that many more innocent people did not lose their money," Berry says.
Both men were convicted for importing devices for a dishonest purpose, altering documents with intent to obtain by deception, manufacturing goods with intent to facilitate a crime involving dishonesty, and dishonestly using a document.
Ghenadi was also convicted for money laundering.
If a package or delivery seems suspicious, call 0800 4 CUSTOMS (0800 428 786) in confidence, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously.