fbpx EBT fraud Archives - Hey SoCal. Change is our intention.
The Votes Are In!
2023 Readers' Choice is back, bigger and better than ever!
View Winners →
Vote for your favorite business!
2024 Readers' Choice is back, bigger and better than ever!
Start voting →
Subscribeto our newsletter to stay informed
  • Enter your phone number to be notified if you win
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Home / EBT fraud

Romanian national gets 33 months for stealing welfare funds

A Romanian national who traveled to the United States for the apparent purpose of participating in an organized scheme to steal public assistance funds intended for indigent Los Angeles residents was sentenced Tuesday to 33 months in federal prison.

Cristian Chimirel was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II to pay restitution of $129,380, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Chimirel pleaded guilty in July to a single federal count of bank fraud. He was arrested last February at a U.S. Bank automated teller machine in Tarzana after allegedly fraudulently withdrawing $7,240 in cash from victims’ accounts.

He was able to access the taxpayer funds because he and his accomplices had obtained electronic benefit transfer account information by placing “skimming” devices and cameras on ATMs or other point-of-sale devices, prosecutors said.

He then “cloned” the account information captured by the skimming devices onto debit, credit or gift cards by altering information on those cards.

When law enforcement arrested Chimirel, he possessed 30 debit cards that had been cloned with victims’ account information. All of the cloned cards had stickers on them bearing each account owner’s personal identification number, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Investigators determined that the defendant pilfered nearly $130,000, and intended to take nearly $170,000, in benefits belonging to 193 indigent victims in the months preceding his arrest.

Prosecutors wrote in court papers that Chimirel had been convicted of a related offense in 2018 and deported, only to reenter the country illegally four years later “for the apparent purpose of defrauding low-income Californians.”

According to sentencing papers, Chimirel illegally entered the United States in March 2022 from England, where he claims to have run a successful merchandise transport business.

“Soon after entering the United States, however, defendant began targeting the most indigent and financially vulnerable in our society — recipients of food stamps and related benefits for low-income Californians — for his own enrichment,” according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court. “In doing so, defendant deprived individual victims of funds they expected to receive and depended on to meet their basic needs.”

While the state eventually reimbursed Chimirel’s victims for their losses, the process takes time. In the meantime, victims were deprived of funds they depend on to pay for food and shelter. One victim, identified by the initials F.B., for instance, was unable to pay rent for herself and her six children and feared eviction, according to federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Chimirel will likely be deported after he is released from prison.

Co-defendant Petrisor Orbuletu, a Romanian national who also pleaded guilty to bank fraud, is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday in downtown Los Angeles.

At least 65 people — nearly all connected to Romania — have been arrested or charged on suspicion of theft involving forged electronic benefit transfer cards in Southern California since last spring, officials said.

Skip to content