The Howell Police Department is investigating an ATM “skimming” case which has compromised hundreds of account holders from several countries and has resulted in over $70,000 of fraudulent ATM withdrawals. An ATM “skimmer” is a device placed over an ATM card slot that appears to be a part of the ATM. The device captures the account information for every card that passes through it while allowing the customer to proceed with the transaction without interruption. A secondary device, usually a pinhole camera or false numerical pad placed over the real one, captures the victim’s PIN as the customer enters it.
The Howell Police Department was notified of the theft and fraud on September 11, 2017 by representatives of Manasquan Bank located at 1050 Rt. 9 Howell. Bank representatives noticed that the surveillance camera affixed to the ATM was blurry. Further investigation revealed one of the suspects placing some kind of lip balm on the lens to distort the image. Then, the suspects proceeded to make numerous ATM withdrawals from multiple account holders in quick succession.
As the investigation progressed, the lead detective investigating the case, Howell Police Detective Robert Ortenzi #604, discovered that the same two suspects also conducted numerous ATM withdrawals at Manasquan Bank on Newton’s Corner Rd, in Howell, Manasquan Banks in Manasquan and Wall, First Constitution Bank in Fair Haven and several other banks and ATM locations in the area. Det. Ortenzi began working with investigators from Manasquan Police and also discovered that these same suspects placed an ATM skimmer device at the Manasquan Bank branch in Manasquan on three separate incidents from 9/1/17-9/4/17, 9/8/17-9/11/17 and on 9/21/17. During these periods, the ATM skimmer captured the information of hundreds of accounts, thereby compromising their security. Manasquan Bank employees in Manasquan located the device on the third incident, 9/21 and removed it, while also notifying Manasquan Police.
So far, in Howell Township, over 100 fraudulent transactions were committed by the same two suspects from 9/9/17 to 10/1/17. Many more transactions were conducted outside of Howell Township but within Monmouth County and at least one occurred in Middlesex County. These transactions have totaled over $70,000 and the amount is likely to grow much larger as the investigation expands.
The overwhelming majority of cardholders whose accounts have had money fraudulently withdrawn are from other countries; Canada, New Zealand and Australia, to name a few. They are not the accounts whose cards were stolen via the skimmer found in Manasquan-those accounts are subject to fraud at any time. It is imperative for anyone who used the ATM at the Manasquan Bank branch located at 185 East Main Street in Manasquan during the dates mentioned above, to notify their banks and take immediate action on their accounts as recommended by their bank to avoid fraud.
The Howell Police Department is seeking the public’s help in identifying these two suspects. They have utilized two rentals cars from a rental agency in Brooklyn which have since been returned. One suspect has used the name Michele Toto and presented an Italian driver’s license to rent the vehicle, however, it is likely a false identity.
Anyone with information regarding the suspects’ identities can e-mail Det. Ortenzi at [email protected] or call him at 732-938-4575 (ext. 2894). Anonymous tips can also be submitted via our anonymous tip line www.p3tips.com.