Illegal Alien from Romania Arrested For Stealing from ATMs

A Romanian national living in the United States illegally stole from low-income families’ public assistance accounts by breaking into ATMs and utilizing technological equipment.

According to a news statement from the Justice Department on April 1, 38-year-old Marius Oprea was sentenced to 75 months in federal prison for utilizing the devices to steal funds from the accounts by making fake debit cards in the identities of assistance program members in California.

On March 29, United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong imposed the punishment and reparation order on Oprea, which amounts to $28,974.

As part of his guilty plea to a single count of conspiring to commit bank fraud last June, he admitted to using counterfeit cards to steal money from the accounts of low-income Californians who were receiving government aid.

Prosecutors proved that Oprea obtained a post office box and had the devices sent there, leading to accusations that he was the skimming crew leader. To back up their claims that Oprea stole money intended for low-income Los Angeles residents, prosecutors showed proof that they kept a database of names and accounts.

Beneficiaries of California’s unemployment and disability programs use Bank of America cards, which were the target of the operation.  Because state debit cards do not have a specific security feature, the authorities argued that the state program facilitated Oprea’s theft.

Law enforcement agencies from Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and the FBI worked together on this case as part of the Vulnerable Communities Task Force.

According to the FBI, if you use a credit or debit card at an ATM or in other payment equipment, you should be careful with the slots. Look for any concealed camera that records your PIN entry, make sure the card slot isn’t too big or too loose, and test it by pushing on it to see if it comes free from the machine’s face.

Contact your bank if you finish or terminate a transaction at an ATM but don’t get your card back.