A Romanian husband and wife who took part in a string of thefts targeting elderly victims across San Diego County were sentenced Monday to federal prison terms.
Eduard Ghiocel, 48, and Floarea Ghiocel, 49, were charged along with four others with taking part in 17 jewelry thefts in “elderly communities” in San Diego. The Ghiocels’ co-defendants, who include their two sons, a daughter-in-law and a girlfriend of one of the sons, remain at large, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A criminal complaint alleges the crimes typically targeted senior citizens in shopping center parking lots or residential areas. Victims were often distracted by the suspects while their jewelry or other valuables were taken through sleight-of-hand techniques.
Prosecutors allege the Ghiocels pawned the stolen items at Los Angeles-area jewelry stores, then laundered the cash they received by sending wire transfers to Romania, as well as by buying gold bars, gold coins and vehicles, then shipping those items to Romania.
The defendants laundered just under $1.4 million in proceeds from the thefts, which occurred over the course of nearly a year, prosecutors said.
Eduard Ghiocel was sentenced Monday to 36 months in prison, while Floarea Ghiocel was sentenced to 30 months.
Defense attorneys for both Ghiocels sought prison terms of just over a year, but U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns said the amount of money involved warranted a higher sentence.
Along with the jewelry thefts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the defendants took $32,250 in state unemployment benefits by filing false unemployment claims, and laundered that money as well.