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16 Arrested on Suspicion of EBT fraud in LA County

Investigators also seized 339 illegally-cloned EBT cards and $106,269 in cash

An investigation targeting Electronic Benefit Transfer card fraud in Los Angeles County has led to the arrests of 16 suspects and the seizure of hundreds of illegally cloned EBT cards and more than $100,000 in cash, local authorities said this week.

``For some time now, suspects have been stealing the private account information of California's EBT card holders,'' the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.

``These suspects then create illegal cloned cards encoded with that victim account information and conduct large cash withdrawals from the victims' accounts at ATM machines throughout Los Angeles County and the entire state of California, causing millions of dollars in losses to federal, state and local taxpayers,'' the LAPD said.

The Southern California High Tech Task Force includes personnel from the LAPD, The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General.

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 led by Bank of America's Global Protective Services Team, to identify the locations in Los Angeles County where suspects were committing the majority of these crimes.

Investigators arrested 16 suspects and seized 339 illegally cloned EBT cards and $106,269 in cash. 

Thirteen of the 16 suspects - Nicolae Petrache, 48; Marius Gavrilescu, 45; and Stefan Marin, 46; Anca Cretu, 33; Andreas Graagand, 34; Cristian Moldova Remus 43; Andrei Birau, 29; Mayra Cardona, 28; Nikoli Kostaki, 35; Dumitri Florin, 47; Nistea Ionutflorin, 29; Fabi Marconi, 41; and Viorel Luchian, 41 - face one count each of grand theft and grand theft of access card information, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón.

The remaining three - Stefan Gunar 32; Eduard Bobol, 45; and Antonio Bergomi, 28 - face the grand theft charge in addition to one count each of grand theft by selling or transferring an access card. 

"Stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to feed children and families is nothing short of disgusting," Gascón said in a statement.

Los Angeles was one of several counties that participated in the statewide effort to combat EBT Fraud which has swiped funds from needy families in California.

Anyone with information about these incidents or the identity of additional suspects is asked to call the Southern California High Tech Task Force, Detective Feeney at (818) 576-8860, or (818) 374-9420. During non-business hours or on the weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). 


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