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Queens Man In LIRR Skimming Case Gets 2-6 Years In Prison

LIRR Ticket Machine With Camera, Skimming Device (Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

LIRR Ticket Machine With Camera, Skimming Device (Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

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MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Queens man who pleaded guilty to his involvement in a credit card skimming scheme at several Long Island Rail Road stations was sentenced Tuesday.

Valer Zaharia, 38, of Kew Gardens, was sentenced to 2 to 6 years in prison by Nassau County Court Judge Tammy Robbins, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said.

In April Zaharia pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree conspiracy. He also waived his right to appeal and agreed to forfeiture of $61,251.85 in cash that was found at the Queens apartment he shared with his wife, Teodora Zaharia.

Teodora Zaharia was sentenced to 9 months in jail last month for her role in the scam.

“The couple that stole together will not be staying together for the next few years, as they pay for their crimes against the riders of the Long Island Rail Road,” said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “The Zaharias could have taken advantage of many honest opportunities there are to make a living here, but instead they chose to take advantage of hardworking people just trying to get to work.”

The couple, along with two others who were accused in the case — Niculae Petre, 45, and Dorin Husa, 37 — are Romanian citizens.

Petre and Husa pleaded guilty in March to criminal possession of forgery devices and are due to be sentenced later this week.

The four were accused of stealing PIN numbers and other financial information by placing “skimming” devices and hidden cameras near ticket vending machines in Chappaqua, Sea Cliff, Bayside, Great Neck, Merillon Avenue and Greenvale stations.

The Zaharias were arrested on Oct. 28, 2013 after they were observed retrieving two skimmer devices and two hidden cameras from ticket vending machines located at the Sea Cliff LIRR station, unaware that MTA Police had been monitoring the station, the DA said.

“Stopping identity theft is a top priority for the MTA Police and we are grateful that the Nassau County District Attorney’s office has carried out these prosecutions with equal vigor,” MTA Police Chief Michael Coan said. “We remind customers who use ticket machines to remain vigilant by always protecting their PIN when using a debit card and by reporting any suspicious behavior.”

Another man, Cezar Nastasa, is also charged in connection with the case. He fled to the United Kingdom on Oct. 31, 2013, shortly after Husa, Petre and the Zaharias were arrested, the DA’s office said.

Nastasa is charged with third-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree conspiracy, five counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, two counts of unlawful possession of a skimmer device in the second degree, and two counts of criminal possession of a forgery device. There is a warrant for his arrest.

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