HOWELL TOWNSHIP - The men suspected of planting a skimming device on an automated teller machine at a bank in Howell are also suspected of hitting ATMs in Manasquan, Wall and Fair Haven in the past month. Hundreds of accounts were compromised, and more than $70,000 has been stolen so far, say Howell Township police.

The skimmer reported to police on September 11 at Manasquan Bank, Route 9 in Howell, led to the discovery of numerous withdrawals, by the same two men, through ATMS at Manasquan Bank on Newton's Corner Road in Howell, branches in Manaquan and Wall Township, First Constitution Bank in Fair Haven, and several more.

Investigators, noting blurred surveillance images, learned that the suspect smeared a greasy substance, likely lip balm, on the lens.

Detectives discovered that the suspects placed a skimmer on the ATM at the Manasquan Bank branch on East Main Street in Manasquan, between September 1 and 4, September 8 and 11, and on September 21.

Police urge anyone who patronized the ATM at that branch, in those time frames, to contact their banks and take immediate corrective and protective action for their accounts.

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A skimmer captures account information of every cart inserted through it, and a secondary device, such as a pinhole camera or an overlaid numerical keypad, records the account holder's personal identification number.

Howell police say that the pair, seen through video surveillance, conducted more than 100 illegal transactions between September 9 and October 1, that more withdrawals occurred in other Monmouth towns and Middlesex County, and that many accounts also originated in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and elsewhere outside the United States.

The search for the two men is broadening. Investigators said that they rented two cars from a Brooklyn, NY agency, and that both were returned. One is believed to have presented an Italian driver's license identifying him as MIchele Toto, in order to rent the car, but police suspect that it's a false identity.

Anyone who can help identify either suspect should e-mail Howell Police Detective Ortenzi, call him at 732-938-4575, ext. 2894, or drop an anonymous, confidential tip throgh the Howell PD online tip portal.

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