MEXICO CITY -- A judge in Mexico ordered a Romanian man to stand trial on charges he ran a massive credit card skimming operation that targeted tourists in the Mexican resort of Cancún, prosecutors said Thursday.
Florian Tudor was arrested in late May, marking what could be the final chapter in a bizarre story of violence, theft and politics. When federal agents went to take Tudor into custody in May, another federal agent tried to prevent the arrest and Tudor’s lawyer tried to punch the officers, the prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors said Thursday Tudor faces Mexican criminal conspiracy and illegal financial transaction charges, after he and two other men allegedly “illegally carried out various transactions at ATM machines” in at least five Mexican states.
They said previously that Tudor, often know by his nickname “The Shark,” also faces an extradition request from Romania for attempted murder, organized crime and extortion.
Tudor has maintained his innocence, but officials say hundreds, and perhaps thousands of tourists were allegedly scammed at ATM machines run by his group in Cancún.
Tudor claimed he was a legitimate businessman facing political persecution and was even granted a meeting on March 3 with Mexico’s top police official, Public Safety Secretary Rosa Icela Rodríguez.
Rodríguez said she had been ordered by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to meet with Tudor and hear him out. “All we did was grant him a meeting to hear what he wanted to say ... we treated him like any other citizen,” Rodríguez said later.
But the meeting surprised many because it came one month after Mexico’s anti-money laundering agency froze 79 bank accounts connected to the gang because they “formed part of a criminal enterprise to clone credit cards in the tourist zone of Cancún.”
Mexico's Financial Intelligence Unit said it acted as part of a joint investigation with the FBI; the unit confirmed the ring was run by Romanians and that as much as $25 million in suspicious transfers had been detected.
The unit said the gang placed ATMs with ‘skimmers’ to read credit card data inside Cancún hotels, and said the scam had expanded to other resorts like Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos.