Cops arrest four in ticket scam

Inconspicuous black strips actually contain hidden cameras that were used to illegally collect credit card information. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Transportation Authority
TimesLedger Newspapers
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Authorities nabbed four Romanian nationals — two from Elmhurst — suspected of installing hidden cameras and credit card skimmers on ticket machines at various Long Island Rail Road stations, including one in Bayside, investigators said.

Police arrested a husband-and-wife team of Valer Zaharia, 38, and Teodora Zaharia, 27, last week after they were spotted retrieving two skimming devices and two hidden cameras from ticket vending machines at the Sea Cliff LIRR station, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police said.

A further investigation led authorities to an apartment in Elmhurst, where the MTA police said they arrested two others — Niculae Petre, 45, and Dorin Husa, 37 — believed to be technicians and managers of the scam in possession of thousands of debit and credit card numbers.

Officials said the investigation had been underway since cameras and skimmers were also spotted at other Metro-North Railroad ticket vending machines in Chappaqua, Westchester County. The MTA police said authorities checked all 277 machines in the Metro-North system and found no other cameras, but a further search into 115 other LIRR stations and 95 Metro-North locations was conducted.

“Always safeguard your personal information like your PIN number and report any suspicious activity,” said Helena Williams, LIRR president. “LIRR crews are also on alert, checking to make sure our ticket vending machines are safe to use.”

The plot started to unravel when the devices were spotted at the Bayside and Great Neck stations on the Port Washington line, Merillon Avenue on the Port Jefferson line and Greenvale on the Oyster Bay line in mid-October, prompting the MTA to team up with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

“Identity theft is a financial plague afflicting millions of victims and costing billions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions. In this particular case, the defendants were allegedly amassing the personal identifying information of unwitting commuters,” Brown said. “This case should serve as a reminder that people should periodically check their credit reports, as well as their credit and debit card statements, to ensure that their personal information has not been accessed by criminals.”

“Ticket vending machines are a source of convenience for thousands of people who take the railroad every single day, but unfortunately those machines have become a source of convenience and opportunity for a crew of brazen thieves targeting commuters,” Rice said. “While law enforcement agencies like ours continue to work together to rein in this scam entirely, customers should raise their alertness at machines, try to use cash or credit cards when possible, and notify authorities immediately of any problems.”

The Zaharias were arraigned last week in First District Court in Hempstead, L.I., and charged with identity theft, criminal possession of forgery devices and unlawful possession of a skimmer device, Rice said. Petre and Husa were arraigned the following day in Queens and charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices and unlawful possession of personal identification information, Rice said.

Petre was held on $50,000 bond while Husa was held on $35,000 bond, the Queens DA said.

If convicted, all four face up to seven years in prison, investigators said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 12:00 am, November 8, 2013
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reader feedback

We should know better from Queens says:
Remind me, why were these people let into this country in the first place. With so many out of work, why are we letting this scum in, please explain it to me. We know the answer, the Dems think that all new immigrants will vote the Democratic party line. Enough of this scum, let them stay home and bother their own.
Nov. 8, 2013, 10 am
Shocked from Bayside says:
We should know better? You should know better! Yes, what they did was wrong, but to target all immigrants and call them scum? It's sad to see such hate and ignorance, especially when 99% of Queens is made up of immigrants who at one point in time came to this country for a better life. Again, not saying what they did was right, but people born and raised in this country commit a lot worse every single day. The one who should stay home is you!
Nov. 8, 2013, 5:17 pm
anon from queens says: are probably an immigrant yourself! We keep allowing immigrants in here but we let in a lot of garbage! Ins does not do their job properly! Theres no extensive background checks for these pieces of crap! Btw....we should be worrying about our own people....other countries dont cater to foreigners. ...we are the only country thats stupid enough to cater to them instead of our own people!
Nov. 8, 2013, 10:50 pm
anon from queens says:
Also...shocked 50 percent of the immigrants in queens are here illegally! We have the highest population in nyc of illegals!
Nov. 8, 2013, 10:51 pm
why from queens says:
Have illegal immoral criminal trash because Dems want them as voters. Send them home - one way ticket
Nov. 9, 2013, 5:43 pm
Welcome to America! from Bayside says:
So I assume you're of Native American Decent?! That would be the only way you're not an immigrant. I would rather Illegal Immigrants here than someone with a mindset like yours. This is America, a melting pot, especially New York, especially Queens. From your above post, all immigrants are immoral and criminals? Also, if they're illegal, how can they vote? You seem very educated!
Nov. 13, 2013, 4:21 pm
O_0 from 718 says:
Why do we let immigrants into this country?

"Roughly 80 percent of millionaires in America are the first generation of their family to be rich. They didn’t inherit their wealth; they earned it. " - From The Cato Institute

Need we continue?
Nov. 13, 2013, 5:05 pm

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.


Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: