Grand jury to hear cases against 4 accused of having ATM skimmers, fake credit cards

The four Brazilian men accused of possessing sophisticated ATM skimming equipment and more than 400 counterfeit credit cards will have their cases bound over to a grand jury, a federal magistrate judge ruled Monday.

A joint preliminary hearing was held in front of U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Newman for Leonardo Wolf Targino, 19, Diego M. DaCosta, 31, Ricardo Carlos De Andrade, 38, and Sandro Lopes Trancoso Da Silva, 40.

Despite arguments from De Andrade’s and Da Silva’s attorneys that not much evidence tied those two to the alleged crimes, Newman ruled that there was probable cause that all four committed crimes as described in a criminal complaint and affidavit written by United States Secret Service special agent.

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Federal public defender Art Mullins said his client, De Andrade, “met some suspicious people and had lunch,” and echoed defense attorney James Fleisher’s argument that the evidence against those two defendants was “pretty thin.”

Assistant U.S. attorney Dwight Keller said that investigators had met the low bar necessary to prove probable cause and that “all four of them were joined at the hip in this criminal enterprise.”

Special agent Jennifer Tron was the only witness, testifying that she first heard about the case when a member of a local task force called to say they saw suspicious credit card activity at Miller Lane in Butler Twp. on Jan. 25, 2018.

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When Tron was asked Monday if she could verify that DaCosta — who translated for the other three during their arrests — accurately described what was happening to his alleged co-conspirators, she said, “I don’t know.”

A Portuguese translator was utilized during Monday’s hearing since three of the four defendants don’t speak English.

Newman continued the detention order for all four to be held in jail without bond during their cases.

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The men were arrested by Butler Twp. police and booked into Montgomery County Jail. Keller has said all four face maximums of 12½ years in prison and $500,000 fines for conspiracy and possession of device-making equipment.

Tron’s affidavit said an agent contacted her when a task force was conducting surveillance of a Nissan Armada with Florida plates in the Miller Lane area.

Targino was observed using one credit card to pay for $50 of gas and another of several in his possession at an ATM, according to the affidavit. A Chevy Tahoe drove to the same gas station and both vehicles drove to an Outback Steak House, according to the complaint.

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