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Identity thieves arrested

When she bought gas last week at a Yuba County gas station, Kathy French of North San Juan was suddenly the victim of an elaborate, high-tech identity theft scheme.

With the swipe of her ATM card as the gas terminal, a ring of thieves was able to obtain every bit of personal information encoded on her card’s metallic strip, as well as her PIN number.

With that information, they were able to clean out her checking account, and much of her savings account.



“You work hard to get by and you wonder why it happened to you,” French said from her home Friday. “These people don’t care who they’re effecting.”

According to Placer County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Hudson, a group of up to eight people from the Los Angeles and Riverside areas have been attaching “skimming devices” and small cameras to gas terminals and ATM machines in at least six locations over Nevada, Yuba, Placer and Sutter counties, as well as some areas around Riverside since Nov. 2004.




Hudson arrested the group’s suspected ring leader, Claudiu Hotea, 32 of Riverside, while he was using a card encoded with French’s ATM card information at Thunder Valley Casino earlier this week.

With Hotea was Emanuel Moldoveanu, 34, Sacramento, who was also arrested for his involvement in the ring.

Hudson estimates therea are still two to six more suspects at large in the Placer/Nevada/Yuba area.


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