Caused a loss of at least $1,244,056.77 from Various Religious Institutions
Greenbelt, Maryland – Daniel Velcu, age 43, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a federal bank and wire fraud conspiracy, in which the conspirators received approximately $1,244,056.77 in stolen checks intended for religious institutions.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Postal Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the 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, from June 2018 to October 2020, Velcu conspired with five other foreign nationals and others to steal checks, including donations, directed to religious institutions through the U.S. mail. Velcu and his co-conspirators conducted the thefts by driving to roadside mailboxes of religious institutions’ and removing the mail from the institution’s mailboxes.
As part of the scheme to defraud, Velcu fraudulently opened bank accounts at more than four victim financial institutions under false identities. Co-conspirators opened bank accounts in coordination with a conspiracy member employed at one of the victim financial institutions, who assisted in the fraudulent account openings under false identities.
Velcu often fraudulently negotiated stolen checks at victim financial institutions through automated teller machine (ATM) transactions and deposited stolen proceeds into both fraudulently opened bank accounts and into bank accounts held in his name or a family member’s identity. Velcu subsequently withdrew money from the fraudulently opened bank accounts through ATMs and spent fraudulent funds associated with the fraudulently opened bank accounts.
On October 9, 2020, law enforcement agents executed a search and seizure warrant at Velcu’s residence. Authorities seized documents pertaining to at least one fraudulent bank account as well as fraudulent French identity documents containing photographs of Velcu with a fictitious name. In order to open fraudulent bank accounts, Velcu but using several fictitious names and identifying documentation.
During the course of the conspiracy, Velcu personally negotiated at least approximately 70 stolen checks totaling in at least approximately $40,357.50 from various religious institutions in Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Minnesota, Georgia, and Maryland. Velcu withdrew at least $4,740 from the accounts that received checks. The accounts Velcu personally deposited checks into received at least $48,987.44 from approximately 101 stolen checks.
Eight additional accounts in the name of Velcu or a family member received at least approximately $82,872.65 from approximately 145 stolen checks, and at least that amount was withdrawn.
Co-defendant Marian Unguru, age 36, of Baltimore, Maryland pleaded guilty to the same charge on April 23, 2021. His sentencing is scheduled for July 28, 2021, at 10 a.m.
Co-defendant Nicolae Gindac pleaded guilty to the same charge on June 29, 2021. His sentencing is scheduled for August 31, 2021, at 2 p.m.
As part of his plea agreement, Velcu has agreed to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, which is at least $1,244,056.77.
Velcu faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang has scheduled sentencing for September 29, 2021 at 9:30 a.m.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner 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. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright, who is prosecuting the case.