What started as a routine traffic stop in Cheatham County resulted in a global theft ring getting busted wide open.

"These subjects can be in possession of $500,000 to $600,000 any day," said Cheatham County Sheriff Lt. Shannon Heflin.

Heflin said Forrest Beard, Ionut Palanga, and George Zica were going into local stores and placing skimmers on credit card machines.

Then they'd steal peoples debit card numbers and pins remotely.

"Underneath this right here, they'll have a battery. They'll have a transmitter and they'll also have a recording device," said Heflin as he showed the skimmer.  

Next they'd take the info and put it on stolen gift cards, which they could then use to steal as much as they want at banks and ATMs. 

Heflin said they admitted to sending thousands of dollars back to Romania.

"The suspect actually made the comment that his sole purpose of entering the United States of America was to steal money from US citizens," said Heflin. 

One of the suspects also told investigators he thinks this is a victim-less crime.

"He states that 'the banks will pay the money back anyway to the victim so there really is no victim,'" said Heflin. 

This trio could bond out as soon as Wednesday.

Deputies worried they could flee the country and get right back to it.

"So our hope is, the federal government will step in and take this case," said Heflin. 

Officials said to avoid being victimized, use your card as credit, not debit. Use the chip feature and always look for anything that looks out of place on the credit card machines.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.



Carley Gordon joined the News4 team as a reporter in 2009. Carley currently covers the crime beat around Middle Tennessee.

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