Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today that 16 people have been charged in a massive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) fraud, in which funds intended for families in need were illegally siphoned away from them at an astronomical cost to taxpayers.
“Stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to feed children and families is nothing short of disgusting,” District Attorney Gascón said. “I commend the diligent work of the investigators in my office and everyone involved in this successful task force operation. Let this be a warning to those who wrongly believe they can steal from the taxpayers of California without consequence that we will work with businesses and law enforcement to identify and stop these organized criminal operations. This investigation was an impressive collaborative effort by the Southern California High Tech Task Force. I thank everyone in the Task Force, which includes my Bureau of Investigation’s Cyber Crimes Section, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Fraud and Cyber Crimes Unit and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General.”
Most of the individuals charged each face one count of grand theft and one count of grand theft of access card information. They include:
• Nicolae Petrache, Marius Gavrilescu and Stefan Marin
• Anca Cretu, Andreas Graagand and Cristian Moldova Remus
• Andrei Birau and Mayra Cardona
• Nikoli Kostaki, Dumitri Florin, Nistea Ionutflorin, Fabi Marconi and Viorel Luchian
Stefan Gunar, Eduard Bobo and Antonio Bergomi are each charged with one count of grand theft and one count of grand theft by selling or transferring an access card.
The complaints allege that the accused were stealing private account information of California EBT card holders, creating illegal cloned cards with victims’ account information, then withdrawing large cash amounts from the accounts at ATMs. When legitimate card holders would later try to make purchases, there would be no funds in their accounts.
After tracking allegations of EBT fraud for months, the Southern California High Tech Task Force led a coordinated operation last week that the 16 arrests, the seizure of $130,000 in cash and more than 300 cloned EBT cards with an estimated value of $400,000.
The task force worked in conjunction with the California Department of Social Services, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services and multiple financial institutions, including Bank of America’s Global Protective Services Team.