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Guilty pleas in LIRR skimmer scam case

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Two Romanian nationals pleaded guilty Friday and admitted their involvement in a massive identity theft scheme that used credit card skimmers to target Long Island Rail Road ticket machines, Nassau prosecutors said March 14.

Niculae Petre, 45, and Dorin Husa, 37, of Elmhurst, each pleaded guilty to a second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument charge. The two are expected to be sentenced to a year in jail on the charge and still face additional charges in Queens as part of the alleged scam.

“I think justice was done,” Petre’s attorney, Jake LaSala, said. “I hope in a few months he’ll be home with his family.”

Assistant District Attorney April Montgomery and Husa’s lawyer, Anthony Como, both declined comment after the sentencing.

Detectives were led to Petre and Husa after arresting a husband and wife at the Sea Cliff Long Island Rail Road station in late October after they were allegedly caught removing cameras and skimming devices from the railroad station’s ticket machines, authorities said at the time. The couple, Valer and Teodora Zaharia, pleaded not guilty to a slew of criminal charges.

MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said investigators searched an apartment in Elmhurst, Queens, where Petre and Husa lived, and found “a virtual factory to manufacture skimming recording devices and produce fraudulent credit and debit cards.”

“They are the people who construct the devices,” Diane Peress, chief of the Economic Crimes Bureau at the Nassau County DA’s office said of the men. “They have the putty knives, the soldering irons and the spray paint.”

During the search, detectives recovered thousands of credit and debit card numbers, hundreds of gift cards, cameras, skimmers, plastic molds, memory cards, flash drivers, computers, cash and credit cards. Two flash drives – containing stolen account numbers – were found in a toilet, prosecutors said.

A fifth suspect in the scheme, Cezar Nastasa, has been indicted, but remains on the run from law enforcement, prosecutors said.

Petre and Husa are scheduled to return to court on April 25 for sentencing.