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    2 men arrested, accused of stealing $50,000 from distracted elderly Huntington Beach woman
    • September 29, 2023

    Orange County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two men from Riverside accused of distracting an elderly woman while one of them stole an envelope from her purse containing $50,000 at her home in Huntington Beach last week, officials said.

    Ionut Marius Andrei, 42, and Stefan Romero Oprea, 38, approached the 79-year-old woman after she came home from a bank where she had withdrawn the money on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the Sheriff’s Department said in a news release on Friday, Sept. 29.

    While one of the men spoke to the woman at her front door asking for directions to a nearby hospital, the other “reached through her right rear window and stole the envelope from her purse,” the release said.

    Both men were arrested on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and are being held without bail in Orange County jail. Both were charged with one count each of burglary, taking property and grand theft, and two counts of theft from an elder adult.

    Both pleaded not guilty to all the charges, court records show.

    Authorities describe this type of crime as “bank jugging,” in which thieves pay “close attention to bank customers … to observe if the customer withdrew cash,” then follow the victim home where they distract them or intimidate them as they attempt to take the money.

    The burglary charge filed this week against Andrei and Oprea stems from an earlier incident in Lake Forest that officials said they tied to the men.

    On Wednesday, Aug. 16, sheriff’s investigators said, the men approached a 72-year-old man at his garage in Lake Forest, with one of them asking for directions to a hospital. While they spoke, another man went to the victim’s car and stole $5,000 in cash from the center console.

    Andrei and Oprea are due back in court on Monday, Oct. 9.

    Investigators encourage anyone who may have experienced a similar crime to call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 714-647-1829. Anonymous information may be provided through Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

    Sheriff’s officials say if possible, people should avoid carrying large amounts of cash and seek other ways to transfer funds. Anyone who believes they are being followed after leaving a bank should call 911.

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    ​ Orange County Register