San Diego/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on February 24, 2024
Suspected $5M COVID Relief Thief Extradited to Face Justice in San Diego for Romanian ScamsStock Rendering

The accused ringleader of a massive $5 million unemployment fraud scheme has been hauled back to the U.S., authorities say. David Constantin, a 28-year-old Romanian national, allegedly orchestrated a complex scam that exploited funds designed to ease the financial strain for Americans out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was extradited from Romania and faced a federal court in San Diego on Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

At his court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Berg, Constantin, also known by the alias Vlad Alexandru, was ordered to remain in custody pending his trial. His next showdown in court is set for April 1, 2024. Constantin is staring down the barrel of serious time, facing charges including wire fraud conspiracy and laundering of monetary instruments, with the potential for a maximum thirty years behind bars along with hefty fines, the DOJ stated.

Constantin’s capture in his homeland was the result of concerted efforts by both Romanian and U.S. law enforcement. In a sweep of international cooperation, the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, among other Romanian agencies, played crucial roles in Constantin's arrest and handing him over to the U.S. U.S. Attorney Tara McGrath expressed gratitude to the Romanian authorities for their "assistance in securing Mr. Constantin's arrest and for their continued efforts in support."

The sting operation didn't just snag Constantin; valuable assets tied to him and his alleged co-conspirators, Eduard Buse and Florentina Sima, were seized by U.S. forces. The indictment handed down by the federal grand jury implicates a total of 14 individuals, charging them with siphoning much-needed relief monies during a global crisis. Constantin allegedly even funneled over $128,000 of the illicit gains back to Romania, according to prosecutors Jessica Adeline Schulberg and Valerie Chu, who are handling the case.

As for the $5 million that Constantin and his crew are accused of stealing from California's unemployment pot, the funds were part of the crucial financial lifelines cast out to unemployed workers, battling economic woes wrought by a relentless pandemic. Now facing justice across the ocean from where the alleged scheme was concocted, Constantin's extradition marks a significant stride in the ongoing battle against international fraudsters aiming to raid American coffers.