Low-Income Families Targeted in Shocking Benefits Theft Scheme


In a recent legal action, a Romanian national identified as Sandu Lele, suspected of unlawful entry into the United States, has been sentenced to an extended prison term of six years. His charges stem from masterminding a malicious scheme that utilized illegal ATM skimmers to pilfer sensitive data and benefits intended for low-income families residing in Southern California. This illicit operation targeted their well-being, exploiting their vulnerability.

The verdict culminates from collaborative efforts between the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the United States Secret Service. The prosecution presented compelling evidence demonstrating Lele’s central role in orchestrating this fraudulent scheme.

Modus Operandi: Skimming & Deception

Lele’s gang deployed illegal skimmers to capture account information from unsuspecting individuals using ATMs. Once they had the victims’ data, they used it to create counterfeit cards that allowed them to withdraw funds from the victims’ accounts. The victims, often unaware of the compromise, only realized the unauthorized withdrawals when they reviewed their bank statements or received notifications.

Consequences of the Scheme

The insidious nature of this scheme not only violated the trust of vulnerable families but also deprived them of essential resources meant to improve their quality of life. Furthermore, the compromised ATM systems eroded public confidence in the banking infrastructure.

Assistant United States Attorney S. Amanda Marshall summarized the impact of the scheme: “This defendant and his co-conspirators preyed on the most vulnerable in our communities, stealing their identities, their hard-earned money, and their sense of security.”

Sentencing and Restitution

The sentence imposed upon Lele reflects the gravity of his crimes and the need to deter similar offenses in the future. In addition to the prison term, Lele is also required to pay restitution to the affected families. This compensation aims to restore some of the financial damage caused by his fraudulent activities.

The Assistant United States Attorney further stated, “Today’s sentence sends a clear message that we will not tolerate those who exploit others for their own selfish gain.”

Protecting Vulnerable Citizens

The successful prosecution of this case serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting vulnerable populations from exploitation. Law enforcement agencies are committed to safeguarding the well-being of our communities and holding accountable those who seek to harm them.

Individuals who suspect they have fallen victim to similar ATM skimming schemes are urged to contact their financial institution immediately. Timely action can help mitigate the consequences and prevent further victimization.

Additional Resources

By working together, we can prevent fraudulent schemes from harming our communities and ensure that vulnerable individuals receive the support and protection they deserve.