Foreign National Involved in Religious Institution Check Theft Conspiracy Sentenced to Over Three Years in Federal Prison

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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 C. Chuang sentenced Marius Vaduva, age 27, of Hollywood, Florida, to 42 months in federal prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.  As part of his sentence, Vaduva will be required to pay $1,334,230.84 in restitution.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Postal Inspector in Charge Charles Wickersham of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Acting Special Agent in Charge Selwyn Smith of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Acting Special Agent in Charge Quenton Sallows of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) Mid-Atlantic Region; 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 co-conspirator who 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.  Additionally, Vaduva deposited stolen checks in fraudulently opened bank accounts held in others’ identities.  Vaduva opened at least nine fraudulent accounts between October 24, 2019 to November 20, 2019.  The same nine fraudulent accounts received a total of at least 119 stolen checks totaling approximately $41,528.99.  Vaduva also deposited at least four stolen checks totaling approximately $2,120.69 into other bank accounts.  Those checks had been stolen from religious institutions in North Carolina and Virginia.

Further, upon his arrest in February 2021, Vaduva’s cell phone contained images of at least 21 stolen checks, totaling $10,119.68.

In total the conspiracy stole at least approximately $1,320,829.69 from 3,075 stolen checks.

Co-conspirators Daniel Velcu, age 43, of Baltimore, Maryland; Marian Unguru, age 36, of Baltimore, Maryland; Vali Unguru, age 19, of Baltimore, Maryland; and Florin Vaduva, age 31, of Dania Beach, Florida previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud.   Nicolae Gindac, age 52, of Dania Beach, Florida pled guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 54 months in federal prison.  Mateus Vaduva, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland pled guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to five years 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 prosecuted the case.

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