A 42-year-old Romanian man living in the country illegally who pleaded guilty Aug. 23 to numerous counts of criminal conspiracy involving the use of “skimmers” on Camden-area ATMs appears to have been deported. The Camden Police Department (CPD) arrested Gheorghe Iordache, 42, whose last known address was in Florence, on April 18.
According to online Kershaw County Clerk of Court records, the CPD filed 97 separate charges against Iordache on April 28, 10 days after his arrest. Iordache pleaded guilty to 60 of those charges Aug. 23. The solicitor’s office dismissed 37 other identical charges.
According to 5th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Brett Perry, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) placed a hold on Iordache. He said Iordache was to be deported immediately after his plea.
“ICE wanted to deport him right away,” Perry said.
For each of the guilty pleas, a circuit court judge sentenced Iordache to five years in prison less the 127 days he had already been in custody, to run concurrently. The reduction in time would have left Iordache an active prison sentence of just a little more than four and a half years.
Skimming — the act of placing a device over an ATM or other card-reading technology in order to steal account or other personal information — has been around for years.
Skimming activity was little noticed in Kershaw County until about 15 months ago. In early July 2016, Camden police officers received a call from First Citizens Bank on East DeKalb Street. The branch manager showed officers what appeared to be a skimmer on its ATM. A technician later found a pinhole camera attached to the same ATM.
At the time, CPD officials reported that the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and other agencies were in the process of examining similar crimes, including at a First Citizens Bank in Georgetown. Meanwhile, Camden officers on patrol were instructed to check ATMs around the city on a regular basis and the CPD urged citizens to be alert and report any unusual activity. The CPD released a security camera image of a man placing a skimmer on the First Citizens ATM, but it was unclear at press time whether Iordache is the man in the image.
Earlier this year, in late February, the CPD received several reports of debit and credit card fraud. Three cases involved fraudulent activity on cards belonging to one Camden woman at several different Walmart stores, including Camden’s.
In those reports, the CPD noted that SLED had informed officers that a card skimmer had been located on the ATM at SAFE Federal Credit Union’s downtown Camden branch. It had apparently been placed on the ATM just before 6 a.m. on Feb. 15 and removed by 2 p.m. that day by SLED agents. The next day, the CPD also investigated possible skimmer activity at Murphy’s gas station on West DeKalb Street, but didn’t find a skimmer device.
Perry said SAFE received full restitution and that Iordache also paid $7,500 in court costs. Clerk of Court records listed the amount of restitution as $8,207.
“There was no money actually taken from any accounts,” Perry said. “That amount was the cost to the credit union for servicing the ATM and replacing all compromised bank cards.”
Iordache may have been deported in the weeks since his plea hearing as he is no longer listed as being held at the Kershaw County Detention Center or with the S.C. Department of Corrections. An ICE spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry about Iordache by deadline.
Source: Chronicle Indipendent