Newport Beach police recently arrested three men and charged them with operating a bank-card scam out of a hotel room in Costa Mesa that may have netted them $100,000 in cash, said Sgt. Andy Gonis.
The men, Faheim Dawish, 23, possibly a resident of Costa Mesa, Donald Skenandore, 25, of Costa Mesa, and Victor Camarillo, 30, of Milwaukee, appeared in federal court Feb. 11 to face charges of counterfeiting, authorities said.
The men are currently in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles awaiting arraignment March 7.
The men were arrested Feb. 9 shortly after police stopped them for speeding in Newport Beach. During the traffic stop, police found credit cards and devices for counterfeiting or altering cards in the car, Gonis said.
Days later, police seized 500 automated teller machine cards, magnetic strips for altering the cards, a telescope, $20,000 in cash and two firearms during a search of a hotel room where at least one of the men was believed to be staying, Gonis said.
"We are trying to get a handle on the scope of this," Gonis said. "Losses are estimated to be at least $100,000." The Secret Service was asked to investigate because the case may involve counterfeiting of credit cards, a federal offense.
The three men allegedly used a telescope to stake out ATMs, Gonis said, adding that they allegedly watched bank customers typing in their secret access codes.
"When (bank) patrons leave behind their receipts, then (counterfeiters would) have all the information they need to encode a new card. We believe this is a big operation," he said.
Investigators are not sure how much money may have been taken by the group. Gonis said that the bank card operation may have targeted any number of banks in Orange County and that people who believe they might have been victimized should contact their bank.