In Superior Court, two individuals from Romania admitted to committing numerous identity theft offenses, according to District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
Marian Catalin Mavrichie, aged 46, and Valentin Andrei Hojbota, aged 37, have been sentenced to 11 years and eight months in state prison. Another Romanian national, Vasilica Ancuta Gaueran, aged 22, had previously admitted her role as a co-conspirator in the fraud case a few weeks ago.
Three individuals from Romania were involved in an extensive inquiry into organized ATM fraud in Butte and nearby counties. Chico Police and Ramsey’s office discovered a significant amount of skimming at ATMs and initiated an investigation in February 2023. In March, the three scammers were identified and apprehended, according to Ramsey.
Law enforcement found $50,000 in cash, several skimming devices in various stages of assembly, and many cloned gift cards using stolen debit card information through search warrants.
Ramsey clarified that this fraudulent activity occurs when individuals from Romania insert skimming devices into nearby bank ATMs to collect debit card details. A hidden camera, cleverly disguised as part of the ATM, secretly records victims as they enter their PIN codes. The stolen data is later transferred onto gift cards, which are then utilized to drain the funds from victims’ accounts at various bank ATMs.
Ramsey emphasized that large criminal organizations, mainly located in Eastern Europe, are behind these well-coordinated fraudulent activities. These operations have resulted in significant financial losses for the state every month. Ramsey further mentioned that these criminal groups specifically focus on welfare and unemployment benefit cards issued by the State of California, taking advantage of their limited security measures.
Gaurean, who is considered less guilty than her co-defendants, has been sentenced to five years and eight months in state prison. The sentencing for Hojbota and Mavrichie is set for December 14, 2023, at 9:30 a.m.
None of the three have been released from Butte County Jail and are being held without bail.