four members of a Romanian fraud gang face jail for stealing an estimated £16m-worth of bank card details from more than 60,000 people.
Three men and a woman appeared at the Old Bailey for the first of a two-day sentencing hearing after pleading guilty to a string of fraud offences.
Prosecutor Catherine Pattison said the defendants – who were living in Harrow, Middlesex – were responsible for “a large scale, highly sophisticated, well executed ATM and counterfeit fraud”.
The criminal operation was smashed in December last year when police raided their addresses and seized an array of gadgets.
The criminals used spy cameras on cash machines to watch for PIN numbers and miniature skimming devices to snatch card details.
The gang was involved in three stages of fraud – first scamming bank card data, downloading the information onto a computer and then copying the details onto counterfeit plastic cards, Ms Pattison said.
In all, 953 bank accounts had been compromised and a total of £161,607.47p was taken, although the potential loss was far greater, she said. Money was then transferred abroad to Panama, Romania, Italy and Colombia using MoneyGram and Western Union, the court was told.
The prosecutor said Florin Silaghi and Vasile Pop were the key players in the conspiracy, and Ovidiu Metac and his partner Adriana Turc had lesser roles.
They all pleaded guilty at earlier hearings to conspiracy to defraud between January 1 2012 and December 11 2013.
Silaghi, 30, of Kenton Lane, Harrow, also admitted possessing criminal property relating to bank details, making a scamming device and possession of an identity document with improper intention.
Metac, 25, of Welldon Crescent, Harrow, pleaded guilty to having bank details on a computer, having counterfeit plastic cards, ATM card slots and a fake photo identity card.
Turc, 27, also of Welldon Crescent, pleaded guilty to having bank account details on a computer and two counts relating to the transfer or acquisition of money.
Pop, 30, of Kenmore Road, Harrow, pleaded guilty to two counts of the transfer or acquisition of money.
The maximum sentence for conspiracy to defraud is 10 years in jail, the court was told. All four defendants are due to be sentenced at the Old Bailey today.
The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU), which investigated the fraud, has said the recovered cards had a street value of £16m – based on the amount stolen on average from a compromised card.