Fraud suspect in jail after bail
A Riverside man suspected of playing a major role in stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting debit card holders in Yuba County was re-arrested Friday shortly after he was released on bail, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Department.
Claudia Hotea, 32, posted $250,000 bail and was released from Placer County Jail, but deputies quickly searched for him again after they learned from the U.S. Treasury Department that Hotea was on probation for identity theft offenses.
They also learned that Hotea is allegedly involved in an organized identity theft operation with others. Deputies arrested him at an undisclosed location in Sacramento at 5 p.m., according to Detective Jim Hudson. Hotea is now back in Placer County Jail with no bail.
Hudson would not disclose the location of the arrest because of an ongoing investigation with the Yuba County Sheriff's Department.
Hotea and his counterpart, Emanuel Constantin Moldoveanu, 34, of Sacramento, are suspected of stealing from victims in Yuba, Placer, Butte and Shasta counties, Hudson said.
Moldoveanu was originally being held in Placer County on $250,000 bail, but it was reduced Friday to $200,000, Hudson said.
“We feel he is involved with the organization, but to a small extent,” said Hudson.
The Yuba County thefts occurred from the Linda Arco AM/PM gas station on North Beale Road, Hudson said.
The store owners were unaware of the crimes and have cooperated with law enforcement by providing them with video surveillance tapes.
“They're taking drastic steps to provide security,” Hudson said of the convenience store owners. “They're a victim in this case like everyone else.”
The suspects also used machines at a Placer County Target store and Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, he said.
At the Linda AM/PM, they allegedly mounted a card scanning device and a camera to the machines to record the account number and personal identification numbers, Hudson said. With that information, they made credit or debit cards to make withdrawals from victims' accounts.
The suspects allegedly made their withdrawals at the casino. They entered at about 10 p.m. Wednesday and withdrew funds until midnight when the transaction day ended, Hudson said.
After midnight, the suspects began another series of withdrawals for the new business day, he said.
Placer and Yuba investigators detected a pattern in the withdrawals from the victims' accounts and set up a surveillance team at the casino, where the men were arrested, Hudson said.
The arrests occurred after Gridley-Biggs police officers arrested Jaspal Singh, 19, of Yuba City, on suspicion of identify theft at the Fastrack Mini Market in Gridley Tuesday. Singh allegedly stole more than $1,000 from 14 victims, according to Lt. Brian Cook,
Singh allegedly had 76 individual card numbers in his possession, as well as receipts and other evidence, Cook said.
Despite the crimes, Hudson said people should not cut up their ATM or debit cards.
“Don't lose trust in ATM machines, but just be cautious,” he said.
Before making a withdrawal, Hudson recommended that people look at the machines before using them. Look for cameras aimed at the keypad and check the card reader to see if it is loose, taped in or if it doesn't fit right, Hudson said.
People should report suspicious machines, Hudson said.
People should also check their accounts regularly for any unauthorized deductions. If they believe they may be victims of identity theft, they should call their respective law enforcement agencies, he said.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.