Woman, nephew accused in intricate skimming scheme plead not guilty

Romanian-born duo face felony fraud charges

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A woman and her nephew accused in an intricate skimming scheme that targeted hundreds of North Florida and South Georgia residents appeared in court Tuesday.

Elena Matei, 35, and her nephew, 18-year-old Plopsor Matei, pleaded not guilty at their arraignment in Duval County court. The two, both Romanian-born, face felony fraud charges.

A Romanian translator was brought in to bridge the language barrier. 

The Mateis are due back in court on July 30.

They were arrested last month after a two-month investigation found skimmers were placed on at least 10 bank ATMs. Investigators said 291 cards were compromised and more than $100,000 was withdrawn with fraudulent bank cards made with information collected by the skimmers.

According to court records, the pair were seen on surveillance video installing skimmers at bank ATMs in Jacksonville, Putnam County, Clay County, Alachua County, Taylor County and Georgia.

But the investigation is far from over. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, United States Secret Service and North Florida Financial Crimes Task Force have taken the lead on the case. 

“They’re working witnesses. They’re working victims. They’re working surveillance videos. They’re working all these things in conjunction with the court proceedings going on," said News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson. "It’s hard to tell you when it comes to a head, but they have enough right now to proceed with a prosecution.” 

Jefferson said it is very likely there are more victims out there, but investigators don’t want to release that yet.

“They keep a lot of things close to the vest because they don’t want to compromise their case that they have going forward," he said.

Those concerned their bank information may have been stolen as part of the skimming scheme are advised to continue to monitor their credit. 

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