Home Crime FDLE Nabs Four, Two On The Run, Stole Donations From Hundreds Of...

FDLE Nabs Four, Two On The Run, Stole Donations From Hundreds Of Churches

Image: FDLE

Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement today arrested four suspects who traveled throughout Florida and across the country stealing donations from hundreds of churches and parochial schools.  Two suspects, Catalin Trandafir and Simona Trandafir remain at large.

[You can watch the FDLE news conference here, courtesy WINK-TV]

The FDLE investigation began in December 2020 after Cape Coral Police Department identified 24 victim churches within Lee County plus additional victims outside their jurisdiction.

Investigators determined the suspects, all Romanian citizens, traveled to churches and stole donation checks from church mailboxes. The suspects operated out of Orlando but traveled throughout Florida and the United States, sometimes to as many as 85 churches a day. Many churches were victimized multiple times.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “Churches depend on donations from generous members of the community to operate and serve those in need. It is despicable that this crime ring would exploit the selfless acts of kindness displayed through these donations for selfish greed. Thank you, to the law enforcement agencies that worked with my Office of Statewide Prosecution to bring these criminals to justice.”

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “This low-tech yet well-organized effort to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of mailed-in charitable donations—at a time when donations may have been most needed—has been stopped. I appreciate the commitment of our investigators, analysts, Cape Coral PD, and the Office of Statewide Prosecution for putting these criminals behind bars.”

Cape Coral Police Chief Anthony Sizemore said, “I am extremely proud of the hard work our detectives put into this investigation. I am equally grateful for the longstanding partnership our agency has with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Together, our agencies put forth a solid case for our partners in Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.”

Suspects used a variety of aliases to deposit stolen checks into numerous bank accounts. The suspects used ATMs and then withdrew the funds as soon as they were posted but before the banks recognized the discrepancy.

While suspects purchased vehicles, food, and clothing with the stolen donations, they frequently sent high-value wire transfers to Romania.

FDLE agents say to date more than 1,500 checks were stolen from 636 churches, including 355 Florida churches.  The total amount stolen was more than $740,000.

In custody:

Ionut Raducan, 33, Orlando, booked into Orange County Jail. Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, and money laundering

Marius Dumitru, 27, Orlando, booked into Orange County Jail. Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, and money laundering

Marius Dumitru, 34, Orlando, booked into Orange County Jail. Also known as Viorel Dumitru.  Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, and money laundering

Panait Dumitru, 32, Orlando, booked into Orange County Jail. Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, and money laundering

Wanted: 

Catalin Trandafir, 45, Orlando, WANTED, Also known as Ionut Trandafir. Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, and money laundering

Simona Trandafir, 39, Orlando, WANTED. Also known as Simona Nitoi. Charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, racketeering, grand theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, money laundering, and structuring transactions to evade reporting or registration requirements

FDLE agents and Cape Coral Police Department officers were assisted in this investigation by the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

The case will be prosecuted by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

Source: FDLE News release

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