Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.
The FBI is conducting investigations in the Teleorman and Argeș counties, where searches are taking place involving members of a group that, through a criminal scheme, allegedly fraudulently obtained government benefits from the state of California, causing damages exceeding $5 million. During the searches, police found money, gold, luxury cars, and valuable watches.
On November 14, police and DIICOT prosecutors conducted eight home searches in the Teleorman and Argeș counties based on an international rogatory commission transmitted by the American judicial authorities. The individuals targeted were under investigation in the United States for forming an organized criminal group, serious fraud, and money laundering between 2020 and 2022. A 27-year-old man, who will be extradited at the request of the American authorities, was taken to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Pitești Court. Competent American federal authorities have charged 14 individuals of Romanian citizenship, suspected of involvement in the criminal activities of the group known as the ‘Sandu Syndicate,’ whose leader was arrested in March 2023 in the United States.
Investigators in the United States have determined that, between July 2020 and August 2022, members of a group consisting of Romanian citizens allegedly engaged in a criminal scheme to fraudulently obtain government benefits from the state of California, specifically unemployment assistance administered by the Employment Development Department California (E.D.D.).
As a result of the investigation conducted in the United States, with the support of Romanian authorities, the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism (D.I.I.C.O.T.) found that members of the group fraudulently obtained benefits from E.D.D. for themselves and assisted others in obtaining benefits in exchange for a share of the fraudulently collected sums. In November 2021, U.S. authorities uncovered a series of crimes related to theft targeting the elderly population in San Diego, California. An organized criminal group, composed of Romanian citizens residing in Vâlcea County, was identified as participating in fraud and theft across the entire United States, revealing that the criminal scheme aimed at fraudulently obtaining unemployment benefits from the state of California.
The investigation revealed that members of the group systematically acted to facilitate the fraudulent acquisition of material benefits from the Employment Development Department California (E.D.D.) by hundreds of Romanian citizens. They achieved this by submitting applications, creating falsified supporting documents, and assisting in backdating the claims. Specifically, starting in July 2021, the group leaders allegedly disseminated announcements through social media networks, offering services or meetings to fraudulently request financial benefits from E.D.D. California, ranging from $1,000 to $1,500, for the opening of accounts within the application. Subsequently, the group leaders developed a process to obtain material benefits using false identities, forged utility bills, falsified income statements, forged forms, and fraudulent health insurance cards. Additionally, they falsified application forms by ‘backdating’ or modifying them, falsely indicating an earlier unemployment start date to generate additional fraudulent income, according to the police. The estimated damage caused to the state of California is approximately $5.2 million. On November 14, three more members of the criminal group were arrested in the U.S.
Money, luxury cars, and gold found in searches
Following searches conducted in Romania, authorities discovered and seized 4,700 lei, 8,000 euros, a car valued at approximately $105,000, around 300 grams of gold jewelry, 4 luxury watches (including one valued at $55,000 and another at $15,500), 24 license plates, with indications of being stolen from the U.S., a mobile phone, relevant documents for the case, and edged weapons. The assets have been seized.