HANCOCK COUNTY — A traffic stop led to police finding 300 pieces of equipment used to make credit card skimmers used in a five-state scam ring, police said.
On Thursday, Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Ernstes stopped two cars headed westbound together on Interstate 70 near the western edge of Hancock County.
Earlier that afternoon, Ernstes had spotted those same cars near the Greenfield exit. When their drivers noticed his squad car, they quickly got off the interstate, according to a news release. A short time later, he spotted them traveling together again, committing traffic violations, and coordinated a traffic stop of both cars with the help of an Indiana State Police Interdiction Team, the release states.
While speaking with the driver of the first vehicle, Conte Nistor, 26, of Romania, Ernstes asked to search the car, a gray BMW registered in Fairfield, California. The deputy found a fake Italian ID during the search.
The driver of the second car also showed a fake Italian ID to state troopers, police said. The driver was later discovered to be a 15-year-old. A passenger, Mihai Marian, 19, of Romania, was also detained during the traffic stop.
A search of the second vehicle uncovered a trunk full of electronic credit card skimmers, credit cards and multiple tools and supplies used to make card skimmers, police reports state.
Five complete sets of credit card skimmers, powered with cellphone batteries, were equipped to shoot video and capture the magnetic strip data from shoppers’ credit cards, the release stated. Evidence from the second vehicle links the credit card skimming crew to incidents in Indiana, Ohio, Colorado, California and Tennessee, police said.
The 15-year-old driver of the second vehicle was taken into custody and detained at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center in Muncie, police reports state. Marian and Nistor were arrested and booked into the Hancock County Jail, the release states. They face the following charges: fraud on a financial institution, a class 5 felony; and unlawful possession of a card-skimming device, a class 6 felony, the release states.
The Indianapolis District Office for the United States Secret Service assisted with the analysis of the evidence, according to a news release. Officials expect to ask a judge to approve multiple search warrants in the coming days as a result of this investigation, the release states. The case remains under investigation.