Illegal alien may have siphoned $15K from Western Pennsylvania bank accounts, feds say
A Romanian citizen who is accused of illegally entering the U.S. from the Canadian border near Seattle is being held in the Allegheny County Jail as federal authorities attempt to determine the extent of a high-tech bank fraud scheme that removed at least $15,000 from bank customers’ accounts in Western Pennsylvania.
Jonas Muller, 34, waived his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh last week on multiple federal charges of aggravated identity theft, access device fraud and bank fraud filed by Michael P. Radens, a special agent with the Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division. Muller’s prosectution was referred to federal authorities after Muller was arrested following an investigation by Mt. Lebanon Police.
According to on-line dockets, Muller also waived a motion Thursday filed by assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey R. Bengel that he continued to be held in the county jail because he is a serious risk to flee.
Muller, who is also identified in court dockets as Marius M. Marian, was arrested by Mt. Lebanon Police Det. William Harbison Dec. 21 on 10 counts of access device fraud, 9 counts of indentity theft and one count of criminal use of a cell phone.
According to the federal complaint, Harbison tracked Muller to the Days Inn in Moon Township after PNC Bank fraud investigators alleged to police that Muller made 9 illicit cash withdrawals from two PNC branches in Mt. Lebanon on Dec. 5.
“These transactions were completed using a PNC Bank Cardless Transaction App. The App provides an access code to a PNC customer’s cell phone, which can be used by a customer to access cash from their account at a PNC ATM machine without a debit card,” Radens wrote in the federal complaint.
Although the amount of the withdrawals from four customers’ accounts at the Mt. Lebananon branches totalled approximate $3,420, Harbison wrote in the federal affidavit that authorities believes the thefts throughout Western Pennsylvania are much more.
“Since the initiation of Det. Harbison’s investigation, PNC Bank has indicated Muller may be responsible for approximately $15,000 in total losses throughout the Western district of Pennsylvania,” Radens wrote.
Although Harbison discovered identification documents in Muller’s wallet when he was arrested in Moon indicating he was a citizen of the Czech Republic, he told authorities he was a citizen of Romania.
“Muller stated he was illegally present in the United States, continuing that he had walked across the U.S. border from Canada, near Seattle, Washington, approximately two months earlier. Muller stated that “Muller” was his alias,” Radens wrote.
According to federal court dockets, Muller told authorities he was working with another unknown individual he met on-line “who forwarded him access codes via his cell phone which he had utilized to make the cash withdrawals.”
“He stated he kept 10 percent of the proceeds and sent the remaining funds via Bitcoin to the man he was working with,” Radens wrote.
Neither federal or local authorities could be reached for comment Sunday.
Muller’s next federal court appearance date has not been determined, according to on-line dockets
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.