Fremont police bust crew in large scale skimming operation

Byby Janine DelaVega KGO logo
Saturday, March 10, 2018

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- Police in the East Bay bust a card skimming operation. Detectives say it appears they were traveling from Los Angeles County and preying on people in the Bay Area.

While many victims were from Crockett, these suspects were known to be in San Francisco as well as Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Contra Costa counties.

With a swipe of a card and a few push of buttons, your identity can be stolen and so can your money. Police say that's what four men were doing when they were arrested in Fremont. An officer noticed Lurri Osteskyi, 29, acting suspiciously at the Wells Fargo ATM on Mowry Avenue. When he was stopped, police say he had large amounts of cash, but no ATM card.

"It sounds like this is fairly sophisticated, there are ties to L.A. County, they had a significant amount of money, various gift cards," said Sergeant Ricardo Cortes, a spokesman with the Fremont Police Department.

Osteskyi's arrest led them to the Best Western nearby where officers found his brother, Denys Osteskyi, 37, in possession of cards, cash, and electronics. Police say they had cloned debit cards that were obtained by using a skimming device.

Detectives say thieves usually have a key that opens a pump at a gas station. Once open, they install a skimming device inside. They close the pump and the next person who comes to buy gas has no idea their information is being stolen.

"That skimming device is blue tooth enabled, which allows a person with a laptop to simply park nearby and whenever somebody uses their ATM card or credit card, that data is then transmitted to that laptop," explained Cortes.

Police are encouraging gas station owners to inspect the inside of their pumps frequently. They also want consumers to be proactive checking their financial statements.

Vlaine Limbaco, a resident of Newark said his wife was a victim of identity theft when her information was stolen from an ATM, so she gave him some advice. "I always pay at the cashier inside, never at the machine. It makes it more secure," Limbaco said.

Police in Fremont also arrested two more men from L.A. County for possession of skimming devices and identity theft who had ties to the other suspects. They're still looking for three additional thieves with ties to the case.