Mexico arrests suspected Romanian boss of distributor skimming ring
Hundreds of “springbreakers” enjoying the beach in Cancun, Mexico, March 18, 2012. File photo: EPA / Elizabeth Ruiz
Mexican prosecutors have announced the arrest of a man identified in Romania as a key underworld figure, Florian Tudor, on suspicion of carrying out an international skimming operation copying credit card data.
The arrest follows an extradition request from Romania on charges of organized crime, extortion and aggravated attempted murder.
A few minutes after the statement of arrest in two paragraphs was published, the Bucharest media identified the man in question as Florian Tudor, aka “Rechinul”, The Shark.
A well-known figure from Craiova, southwest Romania, Tudor and his skimming syndicate are said to have made hundreds of millions of dollars by copying credit card data from tourists in the Riviera Maya, the coastal part of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, where Tudor legally lived for a decade as a legitimate businessman.
Tudor’s Bucharest lawyer Robert Bica confirmed arrest to Romanian daily Libertatea. A Mexican judge will now decide on his extradition in the next two or three weeks.
A source from the Romanian Organized Crime Prosecutor’s Office told the same newspaper that US authorities were playing a major role in the investigation into Tudor, whose illegal activities in Mexico have reportedly targeted thousands of American tourists and are believed to be responsible for around 12% of the global skimming business.
A joint investigation by OCCRP and Romania’s RISE project, said Tudor’s network has expanded to countries in Europe, America and Asia. His collaborators, mainly Romanian, use fake cards containing data stolen in Mexico to withdraw relatively small sums which they then send to Romania in cash or via Western Union.
Once in Romania, Tudor’s parents and warrant officers invest it in luxury residential complexes, which are then legally sold to launder the profits. Tudor also owns several upscale hotels and real estate in Cancun, the main city of the Riviera Maya.
The union’s modus operandi has been sophisticated. In 2014, she established a legitimate company in Mexico that provided ATMs to banks.
The group signed a contract with one of Mexico’s leading private banks, which began using ATMs with skimming devices already installed. This saved the union the trouble and risk of having to mount data copying devices in vending machines already installed in public areas.
On February 4, however, Mexican authorities blocked 79 bank accounts belonging to people in the union, which had developed a warm relationship with several Mexican politicians over the years.
Authorities in Bucharest also investigated Tudor on the trafficking of thousands of Romanians of Roma origin to Mexico and the United States, where they would be sent to steal and beg and seek asylum if arrested, on the grounds that they were fleeing ethnic persecution in Romania.