EXCLUSIVE How a network of 1,400 Romanians managed to terrorize America with…

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EXCLUSIVE How a network of 1,400 Romanians managed to terrorize America with robberies of luxury stores: they use fake documents and addresses, sophisticated methods of operation and involve children during their crimes

A network of more than 1,400 adult criminals of Romanian origin has surprised US authorities by the high level of sophistication of the way they operate, US law enforcement sources told G4Media. Fake IDs, fake addresses, moving from place to place and targeting high-end stores are just some of the methods used by Romanian criminals.


The activities of a Romanian criminal network operating in the United States came to public light after the arrest of four Romanian nationals in Missouri in a case where jewellery worth over $1 million was stolen from a store in Florida.

According to information from the Walton County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office, the theft took place at a store in early April. „On the afternoon of April 11, three individuals, two females and one male, entered a store on Highway 30A, stealing numerous pieces of jewelry with a retail value in excess of $1 million. The three then fled the area in a black SUV,” the official WCSO release stated.

„A Walton County Sheriff’s Office investigator who responded to the scene immediately recognized the suspects from a case he worked on in December 2022, when a Rolex watch was stolen from a Miramar Beach jeweler using a sleight-of-hand technique,” Florida officials said.

A week after the jewelry theft, a black SUV was found abandoned outside a Santa Rosa Beach store, also in Walton County. According to the sheriff, investigators were able to talk to a woman who took three people in her car who told her their vehicle had broken down. All three people matched the description of the suspects. Video surveillance later confirmed that it was the same three people who committed the jewelry theft from the store on Highway 30A.

At this point in the investigation, U.S. law enforcement officials learned a key piece of information. According to the woman who gave them a ride, one of the suspects called her on her cell phone after they had broken up.

The Walton County Sheriff’s Office said it was „a lucky scenario.”

„They abandoned the vehicle pretty quickly after the second break-in and the owner of the business where they parked called us because they had left the car in a handicap spot. The owner said they would have towed it otherwise and we may never have been able to find them. Once we towed the vehicle, we were able to find out that they had been transported by a woman who frequents that business and that they had sent her a thank you note after she gave them a ride.”

Walton County Sheriff’s Office detectives immediately asked judges for a warrant to trace the cell phone, which was located at an Airbnb address in St. Charles, Missouri. Local police arrested George Păun (31), Stela Sava (26), Terca Târnovan (31) and Vasile Lăcătuș (27), all Romanian citizens. More than $30,000, jewellery and other items were found on them.

They are charged with theft of over $20,000 and theft committed with one or more persons for the theft of the Rolex watch in December 2022.

Also, Sava, Târnovan, Lacatuș have arrest warrants for theft over $100,000, theft committed with one or more persons for the jewelry stolen from the store on Highway 30A. (Investigators said Lacatuș’ phone was the one intercepted and monitored).

St. Charles police said it took about 12 hours and a team of 35 people to solve the case.

„I 100 percent believe (the Romanians) would have targeted several businesses in our community. The fact that we were able to apprehend them so quickly helped us save our community from being targeted by this organization,” said Capt. Raymond Floyd, an investigator with the St. Charles Police Department, as quoted by a local television station.

The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Consulate General of Romania in Chicago, told us that „Romanian citizens are in custody, awaiting transfer to the jurisdiction of local authorities in the states of Kansas, Texas and Florida, which issued the arrest warrants.” The MFA said that „Romanian citizens have not requested consular assistance, although they were informed by the US authorities about the possibility of contacting the Romanian consular office in Chicago, according to the documentation provided to the consular office.”

An extensive network

The investigation into the two thefts in Florida has uncovered an extensive network of Romanian criminals operating in the United States. The revelation came after the Walton County Sheriff’s Office investigator was put in touch with a New York Police Department detective, thanks to a retired NYPD officer working with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.

„The NYPD detective, along with a UK police officer, was able to confirm with the WCSO investigator that the group was part of a Romanian criminal network with more than 1,400 members in the United States with arrest warrants in more than a half dozen states,” the release said.

In addition, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said other jurisdictions across America are continuing their investigations related to these suspects, including the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several state and local agencies.

G4Media spoke with Corey Dobridnia, Public Information Officer with the Walton Sheriff’s Office, who we asked about the Romanian criminal ring exposed in the wake of the two Florida cases.

Dobridnia explained that U.S. investigators believe the network consists of about 1,400 adults „and twice that number of children and teenagers,” bringing the total membership of the group to more than 3,000. Incidentally, St. Charles police said one of the Romanian suspects was traveling with his 10-year-old son when he was arrested. The minor was taken into custody by Child Protective Services to reunite him with his mother.

According to the U.S. official, Romanian criminals are „very sophisticated.” Dobridnia said the Romanians use false papers, false addresses, and many of them are constantly on the move, with no stable addresses, making surveillance and apprehension extremely difficult.

According to the public information officer, many of the Romanians specialize in robbing high-end American stores and businesses, as was the case with the two targeted locations in Florida. Criminals take advantage of the fact that many of these stores prefer, in the event of a robbery, not to notify the police, but to seek compensation directly from insurance companies.

Dobridnia said he did not know the exact number of Romanian criminals who were members of the network who had been arrested by the US authorities, but said there were several detained in different US states. (For example, one of the two women arrested in connection with the two thefts in Florida has also been indicted in Kansas.) Under US law, Romanians arrested in one state will have to answer to the law for crimes committed in that state before being extradited to another jurisdiction where they are indicted.

Corey Dobridnia confirmed that several US law enforcement agencies continue to monitor the Romanian criminal network and did not rule out further possible arrests. She told us that investigators in Florida have been calling on various US agencies, and have also received information from the NYPD and the UK. This network is „responsible for many more crimes,” Dobridnia told us, explaining that the Walton Sheriff’s Office investigation was just the first case to reveal the extent of this Romanian criminal network.

NYPD is on the chase

The information provided by the Walton Sheriff’s Office has also been confirmed by a source inside the NYPD. Speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the case, a New York City Police Department detective told G4Media that several members of the Romanian crime ring have ended up in the crosshairs of police officers in the American metropolis. „Some of them have been arrested, others are under indictment, and their network operating in New York and New Jersey is being closely watched.”

The officer told us that the NYPD has had various cases involving members of the network and that some of them have resulted in convictions. The officer also explained that some of the Romanians indicted in New York are also facing charges in other US states. „They will get there only after the legal process in New York is over. That means after the investigations are over, their eventual indictment, conviction and sentencing.”

The NYPD detective also confirmed to G4Media that the network has „professional” methods of operation and that investigating them is „not an easy job.” The Romanians have false papers, continually move from state to state and cover for each other. In addition, they often use children when committing robberies and other crimes, complicating investigators’ efforts to investigate and arrest them.

The New York Police Department source said that the number and variety of crimes the Romanians commit is „cause for concern” for U.S. investigators and is one of the reasons the network is being investigated by different agencies, including Homeland Security, the FBI and the Secret Service.

Sources: WCSO, ksdk.com, MFA

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