FDLE Arrests 4 Accused Of Stealing Donations From Florida Churches – CBS Miami
FORT MYERS (CBSMiami) – The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested four people on Wednesday alleged of stealing donations from churches in Florida.
The FDLE began Operation Thou Shalt Not Steal in December 2020 after the Cape Coral PD told the agency that 24 churches in Lee County had been harassed.
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Agents began looking for six suspects:
- Ionut Raducan, 33
- Marius Dumitru, 27
- Marius Dumitru, 34 (also known as Viorel Dumitru)
- Panait Dumitru, 32
- Catalin Trandafir, 45 (also known as Ionut Trandafir)
- Simona Trandafir, 39 (also known as Simona Nitoi)
According to investigators, the suspects, all Romanian citizens, traveled to churches, sometimes up to 85 a day, to steal donation checks from mailboxes. FDLE added that they would even steal from the same churches several times.
While operating out of Orlando, the suspects allegedly stole churches across the state and other parts of the United States
FDLE said that while the suspects used the stolen money to purchase vehicles, food and clothing, the group frequently sent money transfers to Romania.
In total, FDLE said the six stole over 1,500 checks from 636 churches, including 355 churches in Florida, valued at over $ 740,000.
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“Churches rely on donations from generous members of the ward to function and serve those in need. It is despicable that this criminal ring should take advantage of the selfless acts of kindness shown by these donations for selfish greed, ”said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, whose office will be pursuing the case.
Raducan, Marius Dumitru, Viorel Dumitru and Panait Dumitru were arrested on Wednesday.
The four each face multiple charges, ranging from extortion to grand theft.
“This low-tech but well-organized effort to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of mailed donations at a time when donations were most needed has been halted. I appreciate the commitment of our investigators, analysts, Cape Coral PD and the Office of Statewide Prosecution to bring these criminals behind bars, ”said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen.
The police are still looking for Catalin and Simona Trandafir.
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If you have information about their whereabouts, call the FDLE or your local law enforcement agency.