Florian “The Shark” Tudor, the alleged ringleader of a prolific ATM skimming gang that siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts of tourists visiting Mexico over the last eight years, was arrested in Mexico City on Thursday in response to an extradition warrant from a Romanian court.
Tudor, a native of Craiova, Romania, moved to Mexico to set up Top Life Servicios, an ATM servicing company which managed a fleet of relatively new ATMs based in Mexico branded as Intacash.
Intacash was the central focus of a three–part investigation KrebsOnSecurity published in September 2015. That series tracked the activities of a crime gang working with Intacash that was bribing and otherwise coercing ATM technicians to install sophisticated Bluetooth-based skimmers inside cash machines throughout popular tourist destinations in and around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula — including Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Follow-up reporting last year by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) found Tudor and his associates compromised more than 100 ATMs across Mexico using skimmers that were able to remain in place undetected for years. The OCCRP, which dubbed Tudor’s group “The Riviera Maya Gang,” estimates the crime syndicate used cloned card data and stolen PINs to steal more than $1.2 billion from bank accounts of tourists visiting the region.
Last year, a Romanian court ordered Tudor’s capture following his conviction in absentia for attempted murder, blackmail and the creation of an organized crime network that specialized in human trafficking.
Mexican authorities have been examining bank accounts tied to Tudor and his companies, and investigators believe Tudor and his associates paid protection and hush money to various Mexican politicians and officials over the years. In February, the leader of Mexico’s Green Party stepped down after it emerged that he received funds from Tudor’s group.
This is the second time Mexican authorities have detained Tudor. In April 2019, Tudor and his deputy were arrested for illegal firearms possession. That arrest came just months after Tudor allegedly ordered the execution of a former bodyguard who was trying to help U.S. authorities bring down the group’s lucrative skimming operations.
Tudor’s arrest this week inside the premises of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office did not go smoothly, according to Mexican news outlets. El Universal reports that a brawl broke out between Tudor’s lawyers and officials at the Mexican AG’s office, and a video released by the news outlet on Twitter shows Tudor resisting arrest as he is being hauled out of the building hand and foot.
A Mexican judge will decide on Tudor’s extradition to Romania in the coming weeks.