SAN DIEGO, California – A Romanian couple has been sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a series of thefts targeting elderly victims across San Diego County. Eduard Ghiocel, 48, and Floarea Ghiocel, 49, were charged along with four others with participating in 17 jewelry thefts in “elderly communities” in the area. The Ghiocels’ co-defendants, including their two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a son’s girlfriend, are still at large, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The criminal complaint alleges that the thefts typically targeted senior citizens in shopping center parking lots or residential areas. The victims were often distracted by the suspects while their jewelry or other valuables were taken using sleight-of-hand techniques. The stolen items were then allegedly pawned at Los Angeles-area jewelry stores, and the cash received was laundered through wire transfers to Romania. Additionally, the defendants reportedly bought gold bars, gold coins, and vehicles, and shipped these items to Romania to further launder the proceeds.
Prosecutors claim that the defendants laundered just under $1.4 million from the thefts, which occurred over the course of nearly a year. As a result, Eduard Ghiocel was sentenced to 36 months in prison, while Floarea Ghiocel received a 30-month prison term.
Defense attorneys for the Ghiocels sought shorter prison terms, but U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns determined that the amount of money involved warranted longer sentences. In addition to the jewelry thefts, the defendants also allegedly obtained $32,250 in state unemployment benefits through false claims and laundered that money as well.
The Romanian couple’s sentencing highlights the seriousness of their criminal activities, as they orchestrated a wide-reaching scheme to target and exploit elderly victims in San Diego County. The case also serves as a reminder of the need for continued vigilance to protect vulnerable individuals from financial exploitation and fraud. The authorities’ swift action in apprehending and sentencing the Ghiocels and their co-defendants demonstrates a commitment to upholding justice and holding perpetrators of financial crimes accountable.