Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo

Authorities Tuesday announced three additional arrests in an investigation into an alleged large-scale theft and street-robbery ring victimizing senior citizens and people of Asian descent in the San Diego area and across the country.

Taken into custody in the case over the last two weeks were three Romanian nationals — Eduard Ghiocel, 47, his 48-year-old wife, Floarea, and Marco Miclescu, 22, according to the San Diego Police Department.

The suspects are among 13 people arrested by the SDPD for allegedly taking part in the purported criminal scheme that allegedly involved a large group of traveling thieves operating nationwide. In all, hundreds of perpetrators carried out the crimes, and further arrests are pending, according to police.

“This group of thieves preyed on our most vulnerable community members and took advantage of their kindness to steal and profit,” San Diego police Lt. Adam Sharki said. “The loss is estimated to be in the millions of dollars. Detectives also discovered the thieves targeted specific communities where elderly and people of Asian descent live and shop.”

Generally, the victims would be at a shopping center or out for a walk in their neighborhoods when the thieves would approach them, saying they were from Dubai and asking for directions or claiming that they had been robbed and needed help getting back to their home country.

“Once the victims began talking to (them) and let their guard down, the (perpetrators) used distraction and sleight-of-hand techniques to steal necklaces, watches, rings and cash,” Sharki said.

In some cases, when the initial attempts to surreptitiously steal victims’ money and valuables failed, the thieves would use force to rob them, according to police, who believe that many victims of the crime ring have not come forward.

“Based on our conversations with community members, we know only a very small percentage of the actual crimes have been reported by victims to the police,” the lieutenant said.

Updated at 3:39 p.m Jan. 17, 2023

–City News Service