Somerset

Fraudster admits £3m card-skimming scam

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Media captionLeonid Rotaru, 32, of Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, was caught red-handed by police as returned to collect a card reader from an ATM in Minehead.

A fraudster who admitted running a £3m card-skimming scam in Somerset could face jail, a judge has warned.

Leonid Rotaru, 32, of Ashleigh Avenue, Bridgwater, was caught red-handed by police as he returned to collect a card reader from an ATM in Minehead.

After his arrest, police discovered he had obtained about 9,000 bank card PIN numbers, worth an estimated £3m.

The case was heard at Taunton Crown Court and a sentencing date has not yet been set. Rotaru remains in custody.

'Well-orchestrated'

Police have estimated banks lose on average £460 per card in such card-skimming scams.

Rotaru had installed a card-reading device at the cash machine at Tesco in Minehead.

Image caption Rotaru pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud

When customers withdrew cash from the machine their suspicions were aroused, prompting them to tell shop staff who reported it to police.

Barry Douglas, from Avon and Somerset Police's Economic Crime Unit, said: "By irony or total coincidence the guy was coming back, we think, to remove the device.

"The PC had already seen the CCTV of him fitting it earlier in the day, recognised the person and he was arrested."

Rotaru, a Romanian national, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and the possession of various skimming devices.

He was already on the run from the police in the UK for similar offences when he was caught.

Rotaru is thought be a member of a criminal gang, police said. A computer was seized from his home after his arrest.

Mr Douglas said: "This is usually very organised, you can tell from the quality of the equipment that was attached to the ATM, you can tell from the amount of detail that was found on the computer.

"This was well-organised, well-orchestrated and with good criminal connections."

He added that the scam was "very, very beneficial to the offenders".

Judge David Ticehurst told him all sentencing options were open, including a custodial sentence.

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