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Press Release

Romanian National Sentenced to More Than 6 Years in Prison for Leading Scheme that Stole Benefits from Low-Income Families

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Romanian man has been sentenced to 75 months in federal prison for leading a group that used illegal skimmers on ATMs to harvest data, created counterfeit debit cards using the stolen account holder information, then used the cloned cards to make cash withdrawals from numerous victims, including low-income individuals on public assistance, the Justice Department announced today.

Marius Oprea, 38, who most recently was residing in a short-term rental property in Port Hueneme, was sentenced late Friday by United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong. In addition to the prison term, Judge Frimpong ordered Oprea to pay $28,974 in restitution.

Oprea – whom prosecutors believe illegally entered the United States – pleaded guilty in June 2023 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, admitting that he and his accomplices used counterfeit cards to fraudulently make withdrawals from the accounts of numerous victims.

Using an alias, Oprea received sophisticated skimming devices shipped to a mail drop he rented, lived in a short-term residence, and maintained the master list of stolen account information, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by prosecutors that called the criminal crew “unusually professional.”

The skimming ring focused on Bank of America accounts, which provides debit cards for California anti-poverty programs, including those providing benefits for unemployed and disabled individuals.

“[T]he individuals whose accounts are looted most frequently are those who depend on government payments to survive,” according to declaration by an FBI agent.

“[Oprea] illegally entered our country for one purpose – to take advantage of the weaker ATM security here, which does not require cards containing computer chips,” according to the government’s sentencing memorandum. “He pursued fraud like a full-time job, netting thousands of victims’ accounts.”

The FBI investigated this case and received significant assistance from the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Brown of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Vulnerable Communities Task Force, which is focused on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities that prey on communities that typically are less likely to report crimes to law enforcement and historically have had less legal recourse to address the offenders targeting them. These groups may include immigrants and migrant workers defrauded in immigration schemes, indigent individuals reliant on public benefits, the elderly, and those who have been reluctant to seek assistance from government authorities.


Ciaran McEvoy
Public Information Officer
(213) 894-4465

Updated April 1, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-071