Three Romanians Arrested for Statewide Electronic Benefits Transfer Data Theft

Three Romanians Arrested for Statewide Electronic Benefits Transfer Data Theft

This week, three people were charged with using devices that didn’t belong to them. This was revealed by US Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Shawn Bradstreet, Special Agent in Charge of the USSS field office in San Francisco.

Three Romanian men—Petrica Mosneagu, 44; Ionut Sopirla, 38; and Virgil Tudorascu, 42—were charged with theft of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) account information and using that stolen EBT information to make fraudulent cash withdrawals at ATMs, which is against 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(2). The suspects were caught in a USSS-led operation that took place in multiple districts and led to several arrests this week, including in the Southern District of California.

The public criminal reports show that police have been looking into EBT theft all over California for fourteen months. According to the reports, the California Department of Social Services has found that between January and March 2024, thieves stole about $22.8 million from people in California, including in the Northern District of California, who had EBT cards. Most of these stolen funds were taken out of ATMs without permission. Also, the complaints say that most of the people who fell for the scam are low-income families that count on EBT benefits to buy food and other things they need for the house.

According to the complaints, the suspects took cash out of the ATMs without permission using “cloned” cards. These are debit cards, gift cards, or other magnetic-strip devices that have had the information from real EBT cards erased from them. Most of the account users’ information was “skimmed” at ATMs or point-of-sale terminals. Skimming devices read the magnetic strips of target account holders’ cards to get their PINs and record their account information. After being skimmed, the defendants put the victim account users’ information on blank or previously used debit cards and used them to get cash or buy things.

Each defendant could get up to ten years in jail for each charge if they are found guilty. But if they were found guilty, the court would decide on a term after looking at the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and 18 U.S.C. § 3553, which is the federal law that says how sentences are given.

Mosneagu and Sopirla, two defendants, made their first court appearances on Tuesday morning in Oakland. They will be back on April 10, 2024, for their detention hearings in front of the Honorable Kandis A. Westmore. Tudorascu made his first court appearance on Thursday morning, and he will also be there for his detention case on April 10, 2024.

Criminal charges only say that crimes have happened; until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, each defendant is thought to be innocent.

Along with Katie Turner and Kay Konopaske, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis James and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Glimcher are in charge of these cases. The USSS, the California Department of Social Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the San Francisco Human Services Agency’s Special Investigations Unit, the Pleasant Hill PD, the Richmond PD, the Oakland PD, the Berkeley PD, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the Romanian National Police, and the U.S. Secret Service Bucharest all looked into this and brought these charges.

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