A Queens woman was sentenced Friday to spend the next nine months behind bars after admitting her involvement in an identity theft ring that planted hidden cameras and credit card skimming devices inside ticket machines at Long Island Rail Road stations, Nassau County prosecutors said.
Teodora Zaharia, 28, of Kew Gardens, pleaded guilty to a charge of fourth-degree grand larceny. As part of a deal with prosecutors, she also agreed to forfeit more than $61,250 that investigators found while raiding her Queens apartment. Much of that money, officials have said, was obtained using stolen bank account information.
Zaharia was arrested alongside her husband, Valer Zaharia, 38, at the Sea Cliff Long Island Rail Road station in October 2013 after they were allegedly caught by police removing pinhole-sized cameras and skimming devices from the railroad station’s ticket machines. Valer Zaharia pleaded guilty earlier this month. He is currently awaiting sentence.
“Just as commuters should be able to feel physically safe riding the train, they have a right to feel financial secure as well,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “My office, along with our partners at the MTA, will continue our efforts to ensure that commuters’ valuable personal information is not used to line the pockets of thieves.”
After arresting and questioning the Zaharias, detectives were led to another apartment in Queens, where they found “a virtual factory to manufacture skimming recording devices and produce fraudulent credit and debit cards,” Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Chief Michael Coan said. Investigators arrested Dorin Husa, 37, and Niculae Petre, 45, who both lived in the apartment. They too have pleaded guilty in the case and are awaiting sentence.
A fifth suspect in the scheme, Cezar Nastasa, has been indicted, but remains on the run from law enforcement, prosecutors said. A source said authorities believe he may have fled the country and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.