Romanian National Sentenced to Five Years in Federal Prison for Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud Conspiracy Related to a Scheme to Steal Checks Intended for Religious Institutions from the Mail

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced Romanian national Mateus Vaduva, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, and Florida yesterday to five years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, in connection with a scheme to steal donation checks intended for religious institutions from the mail.  Judge Chuang also ordered Mateus Vaduva to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, which is $1,320,885.84 and entered a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $79,551.07, equal to the proceeds Vaduva obtained as a result of the conspiracy.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Postal Inspector in Charge Greg L. Torbenson of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Acting Special Agent in Charge Quenton Sallows, of the Mid-Atlantic Region, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG); Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Toni Dezomits of the Cary, North Carolina, Police Department; and Sheriff Dusty Rhoades of the Williamson County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office.

According to his guilty plea, beginning in June 2018 to January 2021, Vaduva and his co-conspirators conspired to steal checks from the U.S. mail intended for religious institutions and deposit the illegally obtained funds into multiple fraudulent bank accounts at various victim financial institutions. Conspirators, including Vaduva, conducted the thefts by driving to roadside mailboxes of churches and other religious institutions and removing the mail, specifically targeting donation checks.

As part of the scheme to defraud, Vaduva and other co-conspirators fraudulently opened bank accounts at victim financial institutions under false identities. Conspiracy members often opened fictitious bank accounts with the aid of a conspiracy member that was an employee at one of the victim financial institutions. In addition, Vaduva and his co-conspirators used at least two extended family members who were minors to assist in the account openings.

Vaduva and co-conspirators then withdrew cash from the fraudulent bank accounts through ATMs and spent the illegally obtained proceeds using debit cards associated with the bank accounts.

Throughout the scheme to defraud, Vaduva personally deposited at least approximately 126 stolen checks totaling at least approximately $79,551.07. In total, co-conspirators deposited at least 3,067 stolen checks from Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere, totaling at least approximately $1,307,484.23.  Vaduva admitted that based on the length, scope, and type of involvement in the scheme and his relationship with other conspirators, more than $550,000, but less than $1.5 million in actual and intended loss was foreseeable to Vaduva.

Co-conspirators Daniel Velcu, age 44; Marian Unguru, age 37; Marius Vaduva, age 27; and Vali Unguru, age 19, all of Baltimore, Maryland, previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and are awaiting sentencing.  Nicolae Gindac, age 53, of Dania Beach, Florida pled guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison. 

United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, HSI, the FDIC Office of Inspector General, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Cary (North Carolina) Police Department, and the Williamson County (Tennessee) Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright, who is prosecuting the case.

For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources to report fraud, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/report-fraud.

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