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Romanian citizen arrested in California for stealing USD 5 mln from COVID relief fund

Romania Insider logo Romania Insider 03/03/2023 radu.dumitrescu
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Constantin Sandu from Romania, a suspected organized crime figure, was arrested and charged in the U.S. for masterminding a scheme to steal more than USD 5 million in California unemployment insurance benefits. The funds were meant to help workers impacted by the pandemic.

Sandu, 33, along with 214 Romanian co-conspirators across California and Romania, obtained millions of dollars from the COVID relief fund by creating fictional businesses and asking for unemployment benefits from California’s Economic Development Department.

“This defendant presided over a vast network of international swindlers to exploit a program meant to help struggling California workers survive the pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman in a press release from the U.S. Justice Department. He also said that the US is “aggressively investigating” COVID relief fraud.

Sandu was arrested by FBI San Diego on March 1, 2023, at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol Station. 

“These benefits were offered with the intention of helping struggling families stay afloat and were a critical lifeline for many. Sandu’s alleged greed diverted those funds for his own personal gain. The FBI and our partners will continue to identify those who commit pandemic-related fraud and hold them accountable for their crimes,” said FBI agent Stacey Moy. Similar statements came from the San Diego Police Department and the IRS.

Beginning in the fall of 2020 and continuing until late summer of 2022, Sandu and hundreds of unnamed co-conspirators allegedly learned and developed a process to receive the most benefits possible by using fraudulent identifications, falsified utility bills, falsified earnings statements, falsified W2s, fraudulent health insurance cards, and non-existent companies. Additionally, Sandu learned to “backdate” or modify the EDD applications with an earlier unemployment start date to generate even bigger paydays. 

Co-conspirators communicated with Sandu via Facebook or other electronic means or met with him in person to provide their Personal Identifying Information, known as PII. In total, Sandu conspired with unnamed co-conspirators to fraudulently obtain no less than  USD 5.2 million in California Unemployment Insurance benefits.

(Photo source: Ruslangrumble |

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