Two men with no connections to Contra Costa County or the Bay Area were arrested in Hercules earlier this month after they allegedly made cash withdrawals at a bank ATM using fraudulently cloned EBT cards, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Florin Tanasa, 27, and Adam Nilsson, 30, have been charged with multiple felonies and face misdemeanor charges in what the DA’s office called a “sophisticated financial criminal scheme that defrauded hundreds of Californians receiving public assistance.”
Hercules police responded to the Bank of America branch on Sycamore Avenue on Dec. 1 after a bank official alerted authorities to consecutive cash withdrawals from EBT cards at the bank’s ATM.
“A search of their vehicle found 50 fraudulently cloned EBT cards, credit card skimming equipment, and thousands of dollars in cash,” according to the DA’s Office.
Tanasa and Nilsson are also under investigation in Belmont and in Ssanta Barbara County for similar crimes. They recently pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. A Contra Costa County judge set their bail at $1 million each after Deputy District Attorney Dana Filkowski successfully argued they are flight risks and threats to public safety. Hercules police established probable cause that the pair would likely use funds from their criminal activity to post bail, according to the DA’s Office.
Filkowski described Tanasa and Nilsson as “mobile perpetrators who have preyed upon California’s most vulnerable residents.”
“Their financial crimes have bilked individuals and families of assistance they need for support,” Filkowski said. “Had they been released on bail, they would have likely continued their criminal enterprise of defrauding those in need.”
There are ways for people to protect themselves from financial fraud at ATMs or Point of Sale machines. The California Welfare Fraud Investigators Association features a video on how these scams work, and the California Department of Socials Services also has a video on common EBT scams.