Queens, DA's Office: Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown today announced that two Romanian nationals in the United States on journalism visas have been indicted on charges of stealing more than $17,700 from a Chase bank in Hollis, Queens, by rapidly performing multiple unauthorized withdrawals at the bank’s automated teller machines using scores of Dunkin’ Donut gift cards that had been reencoded with stolen bank account information.
District Attorney Brown said, “Instead of going on a run for coffee and doughnuts with their
gift cards, the defendants are instead accused of going to the bank and using its ATMs as their
personal slot machines, cashing out large sums of money with each use of their ‘doctored’ Dunkin’
Donut gift cards.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Daniel Gheorghe and Ionel Cristian Popa,
both 33 with no known addresses in the United States. The defendants were arraigned on Thursday,
July 28, 2011, in Queens County Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, Queens, on a 70-count indictment
charging each of them with one count of third-degree grand larceny, one count of third-degree
criminal possession of stolen property, sixty-six counts of second-degree criminal possession of a
forged instrument, and two counts of first-degree scheme to defraud. The defendants, who each face
up to seven years in prison on each of the 66 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged
instrument if convicted, were ordered held on $150,000 bail each (with a bail sufficiency hearing)
and to return to court on August 23, 2011.
District Attorney Brown said that, according to the indictment, Gheorghe and Popa were
observed by police in the vestibule of the Chase bank branch, located at 205-19 Hillside Avenue, on
the evening of March 31, 2011, rapidly performing multiple unauthorized transactions at the bank’s
ATMs using Dunkin’ Donuts rechargeable gift cards that had been re-encoded with stolen account
information belonging to various banks – including Chase Bank, Bank of America, Citibank, HSBC,
Maestro, Nuvision Federal Credit Unit and US Bank National Association. After each transaction,
the defendants allegedly jammed large amounts of cash – mostly twenty-dollar bills – in the pockets
of their clothing.
At the time of their arrest, police officers assigned to the New York City Police Department’s
107th Precinct allegedly seized $17,703 in stolen funds and 66 Dunkin’ Donut gift cards from the
defendants’ persons and from their vehicle.
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District Attorney Brown explained that a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card is marked with a sixteendigit
vendor account number. According to the criminal charges, none of the sixteen digit account
numbers displayed on any of the seized cards matched the account numbers encoded on the cards’
The District Attorney said that police were summoned to the location by investigators from
JPMorgan Chase, which proactively protects the personal and account information of its clients
against identity thieves.
District Attorney Brown thanked JPMorgan Chase and Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. (the parent
company of Dunkin’ Donuts), for their assistance in the investigation. The arrest was made by
Police Officer Frank Caruso, of the NYPD’s 107th Precinct.
The investigation was conducted by Detective Robert Cimino, of the New York City Police
Department’s Identity Theft Squad, under the supervision of Sergeant Barry Neiss and Lieutenant
Ruperto Aguilar and the command of Deputy Inspector Gregory T. Antonsen, of the Financial
Crimes Task Force, and the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Jeremiah Quinlan, Commander of
the Special Investigations Division, and Chief Phil T. Pulaski, of the Detectives Bureau.
The District Attorney noted that the investigation was continuing.
Assistant District Attorney Morgan A. Goulet, of the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes
Bureau, is prosecuting the case under the supervision of Gregory C. Pavlides, Bureau Chief,
Christina Hanophy, Deputy Chief, and under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District
Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney for
Investigations Linda M. Cantoni.
It should be noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that a defendant is
presumed innocent until proven guilty.