Crime alert network helps identify suspects wanted for ATM skimming

MADISON (WITI) — Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is pleased to announce the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network (WCAN) has helped to identify suspects wanted for allegedly stealing customers` bank account information through the use of ATM skimming devices.

On November 20, 2012, the Sauk Prairie Police Department issued an alert through the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network (WCAN) concerning a skimming device that had been placed at a local ATM machine. The suspects placed the electronic device, designed to secretly record bank account data of customers who used the ATM, on the machine. The suspects also installed hidden “pin hole” video cameras, which secretly recorded customers’ Personal Identification Numbers as the customers pressed numbers on ATM keypads.

With this personal information, the suspects then created ‘new bank cards’ to withdraw funds from victim accounts using ATMs at other locations. Throughout the investigation, Sauk Prairie police issued updated Crime Alerts containing new photos and updated ATM locations used by the suspects to withdraw cash from victims` accounts.

The crime alerts issued by Sauk Prairie police were disseminated to law enforcement agencies around the country. The U.S. Secret Service in New York received the alert, along with the photographs of the suspects, and indentified one of the suspects. This tied the incidents in Wisconsin to activity being investigated in New York.

Law enforcement agencies in Nevada and Illinois also contacted Sauk Prairie police after receiving the WCAN alerts. Investigators around the nation began using the photos from the Sauk Prairie crime alert to identify possible suspects.

On February 11, 2013, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced two of the suspects featured in the WCAN alert were indicted. Two of the counts in the indictment contain unauthorized cash withdrawals from bank accounts in Milwaukee. The transactions in Milwaukee were initially tied to the suspects in New York through the suspect photos contained in the WCAN alerts. One of the suspects who was indicted, Simion Tudor Pintillie, was captured by surveillance camera on November 18, 2012, at a bank in Franklin, Wisconsin. A surveillance image is available here.

Sauk Prairie Police Chief Jerry Strunz notes that four suspects in the WCAN alerts have been identified; two have been indicted and are in federal custody; another is in custody; and a fourth suspect has an arrest warrant. The skimming devices are alleged to have been obtained from Hungary. See the following link for more information about the indictment and investigation: Release from U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York

“The response we received from the WCAN alerts truly saved our agency hundreds of hours trying to identify the suspects in this case,” Chief Jerry Strunz said. “The WCAN alerts streamlined our investigation by allowing financial crimes investigators across the country to review the information and directly contact us with tips on the suspect`s identity.”

Chief Strunz is still trying to identify one suspect who was captured by a surveillance camera at a Milwaukee drug store on November 17, 2012. Anyone with information should contact Sauk Prairie Police Department at 608-643-2427.

“I`m thankful to local law enforcement for supporting and using the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network,” Attorney General Van Hollen said. “Cases like this one, which crosses multiple jurisdictions, illustrate the value of sharing information to solve complex crimes.”

Anyone may subscribe to the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network. Since it became operational in fall of 2011, more than 1,100 Wisconsin Crime Alert Network alerts have gone out. Crimes in which the WCAN has played a key role include sexual assaults, endangered missing persons, as well as cases of theft and robbery. Officers report several cases that were solved within one hour of using the WCAN.

With the WCAN, law enforcement officers issue alerts at no cost either by fax, e-mail or text message to individuals and business owners, who may enroll online to receive alerts at a cost of $12 a year. To enroll or to learn more about the WCAN, visit the website http://www.wisconsincrimealert.gov/.

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