Two men accused of using skimming devices on 3 Commerce Bank ATMs, stealing thousands

Pedro Baptista (left) Renato LaCovara (right). Mug shots from Platte County Detention Center.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Charges filed in Jackson County on Tuesday accuse two men of traveling to the metro and installing skimming devices on three Commerce Bank ATMs where they stole thousands of dollars, and compromised the accounts of about 150 customers.

Pedro Baptista and Renato LaCovara are each charged with trafficking in stolen identities, the offenses are dated as happening on March 24.

Court documents say that the pair installed skimmers on a Commerce ATM at 804 E. 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, Mo., and two others in Kansas City, Kan., at 202 W. 43rd Street and 4020 Rainbow Boulevard. A total of 44 accounts were compromised at the 12 St. location, with a loss of $351.98, and 100 accounts were compromised at the KCK locations with a loss of $21,341.05.

Documents go on to say that the suspects used three stolen accounts at an ATM in or near the Argosy Casino in Riverside, Mo. The Missouri Highway Patrol apprehended LaCovara at the casino, and Riverside police caught Baptista after he fled.

Both men blamed one another for being the masterminds of the operation during interviews with investigators.

LaCovara said he and Baptista came to Kansas City from Houston to commit ATM fraud. He said that Baptista was responsible for everything, he only took money from the ATM. Investigators searched their room at a Super 8 in Platte county and found skimmers, a laptop and between 100 and 200 gift cards and 20 blank credit cards. Receipts also indicated they had been at the 12th Street ATM. Investigators seized more than $10,000 in cash from the room.

Baptista spoke with investigators on Monday and said he came to the United State to visit LaCovara in Houston, and they paid someone $400 to drive them to Kansas City so they could install skimmers. They rented a car in the metro, and Baptista said they would travel to the ATMs and install the skimmers, and check back a couple hours later to ensure they were working and re-installed the devices.

Baptista said his involvement was minimal, and LaCovara was in charge because he knew how to install the skimmers and the component that gathers card information. He said they transferred stolen account information to blank gift cards. He was also shown surveillance and admitted he was seen with skimming equipment in his hand at the 12th Street ATM.

Both are currently in jail. Baptista’s bond set at $250,000 cash and LaCovara’s is $30,000, also cash, according to online court records. A check of records in Kansas doesn’t reveal any charges against them in Wyandotte County, where they could also be filed because two of the skimmers were allegedly used in Kansas City, Kan.

If convicted they face a term between five and 15 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Both men are of Venezuelan descent; LaCovara is in the United States illegally on an expired Visa, and Baptista entered the U.S. on a six-month tourist Visa in February.