Three men jailed for roles in sophisticated £90k Carlisle card cloning scam

A card skimmer was found on a parking ticket machine in a Carlisle car park. Credit: Cumbria Police

Three men have been jailed for their involvement in a sophisticated and professional scam which cost one bank almost £100,000 as scores of debit and credit cards were skimmed and cloned in Carlisle.

Police were alerted to the trio’s fraud on 7 March as security staff reported that a card skimmer had been found on a parking ticket machine at The Lanes city centre car park.

A skimmer is an electronic device placed over a machine’s legitimate payment slot which collects data as it passes through and allows the creation of fake, cloned cards containing genuine customer information.

37-year-old Daniel Istvan was seen acting suspiciously at the Lanes car park machines on several different occasions and, when located, he had cloned bank cards in his possession.

He had no vehicles registered to him and, when arrested, was in possession of a train ticket from Dumfries.”

Istvan was bailed. But seven days later as police stopped an Audi on the M6 near Carlisle, he was found inside along with fellow passenger Constantin Cracana, 40, and driver Christian Andrei-Tapu, 30.

“To all intents and purposes it was a fraud mobile,” said prosecutor Tim Evans of the car. “It allowed the defendants to travel around to whatever locations they chose next to use false cards.

"All three would know the purpose of their journeys; all three would know that the cards were concealed in the car; and all three were therefore prepared to play their roles in carrying forward this sophisticated fraud.”

Istvan was in possession of 10 bank cards, had sought to covertly toss more away and scores of others bearing a variety of names and numbers were later found by police to be concealed in the vehicle’s roof lining.

Receipts showed Cracana had purchased food from McDonald’s in Scotland using bogus cards with Costa coffee north of the border also been targeted.

Istvan, of Friars Vennel, Dumfries; Cracana, of New Road; and Tapu, of Cressex Road, both High Wycombe; sought to advance implausible explanations before they admitted a charge of possessing the cards for use in fraud. Cracana further admitted fraudulently using cards, asked for other matters to be taken into consideration and also pleaded guilty to possessing another person’s identity document — a driving licence which had been sent to Colombia.

Defence lawyer Jeff Smith, representing Istvan and Cracana, accepted the trio’s illegal activity had caused “financial chaos” across the north.

One building society reported a £90,595 loss with 90 customers based in Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders being identified. Almost all had used their cards at The Lanes car park.

A financial crimes leader said the building society saw illegal transactions from Manchester to Paisley all within a couple of hours of each other. “It was a distribution of cloned cards,” said Mr Evans. “The operation as it developed plainly needed therefore multiple individuals to operate it.”

The court heard all three Romanian nationals had turned to fraud after finding themselves without legitimate work. Mr Smith said: “They weren’t the ones who organised the sophisticated trial of offending but they did enter into it.”

Istvan was jailed for 29 months, Cracana for 30 months and Andre-Tapu for 23 months by Judge Michael Fanning, who said they had engaged in “serious economic crime”.

“This was a sophisticated arrangement in which unsuspected members of the public have been systematically scammed,” Judge Fanning told the men.

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